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IN THE 2010’
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Historical Background Historical Setting Modern Monarchy The Land and Its People Culture Education Labour Health Sports Social Development and Human Security Justice for the People and the Protection of Human Rights Government and Policy/Administration Public Sector Reform Defence International Relations Agriculture Industry Thailand Board of Investment Trade and Services Tourism Natural Resources and Environment Energy Transport ICT Science, Technology and Innovation Financial System : Status and Development Private-sector Role in the National Economy Prepared by the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry and Banking (JSCCIB), Thailand Emerging from the Global Downturn Development Strategy in Regional Perspective
For almost eight centuries, Thailand’s royal institution has endured under the aegis of the Royal House of Chakri. Today, stewardship of the royal institution abides and prevails under the wise counsel of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who also holds the distinction of being the world’s longest-serving monarch. Revered and loved by everyone in the Kingdom, His Majesty, in 2011, celebrated his 7th cycle, 84th birthday; a year later, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit celebrated her 80th birthday; both occasions affording splendid opportunities for Thai people to demonstrate their deep gratitude for the selflessness, concern and compassion shown by Their Majesties over the years, by commemorating these auspicious milestones in the spirit of joy and happiness. To further celebrate Thailand’s progress and development, ten years into the 21st century, the Royal Thai Government, through the collaborative efforts of the National Identity Board, takes great pride in presenting this exclusive publication that showcases Thailand as it navigates a steady course into the second decade. The first decade saw great changes in socioeconomic terms with the country striving to uphold the principles of a “sufficiency economy”, as envisioned by His Majesty, in the development of agriculture, industries,
services and tourism within an increasingly globalised world. In response, successive governments have developed strategies to drive forward education, social security, justice, defence, environmental protection and natural resources conservation. Ministerial edicts to this effect are detailed in this publication. Accordingly, readers will learn that great efforts are underway in terms of capacity building related, for example, to social areas such as public health and sports, and in developing the labour force to strengthen efforts in science and technology to transform the country, as Thailand is moving fast towards becoming a cyber-based society. To meet the need to innovate to provide infrastructure development, energy reform, and technological improvements in transport and communications, more public-private-partnerships are designated at national level all with a view to instilling good corporate governance into the process. In addition, every facet of development, as explained in this publication, follows His Majesty’s “Sufficiency Economy Philosophy” which has been successfully demonstrated over the years in the form of royal development projects and through international cooperation. As we journey through the second decade of the 21st century, the Royal Thai Government and National Identity Board sincerely hope that readers will find “Thailand in the 2010’s” of some value in understanding the socioeconomic plans and their implementation designed to secure the future of Thailand in a sustainable manner.
s revealed through archeological discoveries made in various locations in the territory of present-day Thailand, these are sites where, during the evolution of homo erectus primordial hunters, trappers and gatherers had lived, and some of the first settlements evolved of people who had worked the soil, grown crops, created tools, utensils, and artifacts, and venerated guardian spirits, beginning several thousand years ago. Early in history, both Mon - and Khmer-speaking people occupied large areas of what is modern Thailand; the former established several city states known collectively as Dvaravati, the name depicting their culture and arts; the latter ruled over extensive territory from their capital of Angkor in present-day Cambodia. The Thai gradually migrated southward from river basins in present-day south-western China and settled in sufficient numbers to establish their small states in the north of present-day Thailand, well before the 13th century. Until 1949 the country was known to the world as “Siam”. On May 11 of that year, and by official proclamation, its name was finally changed to “Prathet Thai,” or Thailand in English. The word “Thai” means free and therefore “Thailand” means “Land of the Free.”
Situated in the heart of the South-east Asian mainland, the Kingdom of Thailand covers 513,115 sq.km, not including its maritime economic zone. Its extreme latitudinal co-ordinates are 20°28’N and 5°36’S, and its extreme longitudinal co-ordinates are 105°38’E and 97°22’W. To the north, Thailand
borders the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) and the Union of Myanmar; to the east it borders the Lao PDR and the Kingdom of Cambodia; to the south it borders Malaysia; and to the west it borders the Union of Myanmar. The country’s land-based maximum north-south extent is approximately 1,600 km, and its maximum east-west extent measures approximately 870 km. The country’s coastline along the Gulf of Thailand is 1,875 km long, compared to 740 km along the Andaman Sea; not included are the coastlines of some 400 islands, most of them in the Andaman Sea. By and large, four regions are distinguishable: the North; the Central Plains with the Chao Phraya River Basin and some other, smaller river basins; the North-east, also known as the Khorat Plateau; and the South on the northern half of the Malay Peninsula. The North is a mountainous region with narrow valleys. Hence, its landscape is dotted with forests, rivers, paddy fields and orchards. Located in its northern part are the historical centres of Chiang Saen, Phayao, Nan, Phrae, Lampang, Lamphun, Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. The centre of its southern part is the historical capital of Sukhothai, flanked by Si Satchanalai and Kamphaeng Phet. The Central Region is a vast area of alluvial, lush and fertile plains. It is the leading rice-producing area and has often been called the “Rice Bowl of Asia”. Siam’s historical capital Ayutthaya, as well as Lop Buri, the country’s official second capital since the middle of the 19th century, and Bangkok, the capital of Thailand since 1782, are located in this region. Its eastern and western flanks are covered by some of the country’s outstanding nature reserves. The North-east of Khorat Plateau forms the largest region, covering onethird of the country. It is bordered by two high mountain ranges and has in its interior mountains and undulating hills. Harsh climatic conditions either cause floods or droughts, the latter frequently in the region’s southern semiarid part. Yet the premium rice variety, Khao Hom Mali or Jasmine Rice, is grown there. Magnificent historical monuments dot the landscape.
The South ranges from hilly to mountainous, with dense virgin forests and rich deposits of minerals and ores. Historically, this was the Golden Chersonese; the peninsula where East and West met to trade at its thriving coastal entrepôts. Traditionally, this region is also known for the production of agricultural commodities such as rubber, palm oil, coffee and fruits. It became a tourism hub in the recent past thanks to its fabulous beaches and reefs.
Thailand is a warm and rather humid country situated across three climate zones. The North, North-east and Central Plains, by far the largest part, lies in the savannah climate zone with moderate rainfall and long dry periods. Its lower south-eastern part, and almost the entire northern peninsula between Hua Hin and Satun, except for a stretch of its east coast from Nakhon Si Thammarat southward to Narathiwat, falls into the seasonal rainforest climate zone with frequent convection rainfall and short dry periods. This stretch alongside the peninsular east coast belongs to the tropical rainforest climate zone with steady convection rainfall throughout the year. The winds that influence the climate are the summer monsoon from the south-west across the Indian Ocean, during May through October, resulting in a pronounced rainy season, and the winter monsoon from the north-north-east between November and May, commonly called the dry season. Countrywide, average temperatures range between a minimum of 23.7°C and a maximum of 37.5°C.
The population of Thailand is approximately 64.1 million, with an annual growth rate of about 0.3 per cent. In addition to Thai, it includes ethnic Chinese, Malay, Khmer, Lao, Vietnamese, and Indians, among others.
Buddhism is the professed faith of 95 per cent of the population. Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or other religions are embraced by minorities. The King of Thailand, under the constitution and in practice, is the patron of all major religions embraced by the people.
The official national language is Thai. It is a tonal language, uninflected and predominantly monosyllabic. Many polysyllabic words are “borrowed,” mainly from Khmer, Pali, or Sanskrit. Dialects are spoken in rural regions. Other languages spoken include Chinese and Malay. English, a mandatory subject in public schools, is widely spoken and understood, particularly in Bangkok and other major cities.
A constitutional monarchy with a bicameral legislature, the parliament and the senate, form the system of government. The country comprises 76 provinces, called changwat in Thai, which are subdivided into districts or amphoe, sub-districts or tambon, and villages or mu ban. Metropolitan Bangkok is administered by an elected governor; it is subdivided into 50 districts called khet in Thai.
The royal anthem, whose lyrics acclaim the realm embodied in His Majesty the King, is played on occasions such as state ceremonies and functions graced by Their Majesties and members of the royal family, as well as at events where people gather such as concerts, theatre performances, cinema shows, and sports events. The sentiments expressed through the lyrical and musical rendition mirror the people’s sentiments of adoration and respect for their monarch. Thailand’s national flag is composed of five horizontal bands of red, white and blue. The central blue band represents the monarchy and occupies one-third. It is flanked by two narrow bands of white which represent religion and in toto equal one-third. They are flanked by two narrow, outer bands in red which represent the nation and in toto equal one-third. This tricolour was introduced by royal command of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI, 1910-1925) in 1917. It replaced a flag in which a white elephant was depicted against a red background.
The national anthem is played on all ceremonial occasions of national importance, and daily while the national flag is being hoisted at eight o’clock in the morning and lowered at six o’clock in the evening. The literal translation of its text reads as follows: The nation is made up of the Thai; It is a nation of Thai in every part of the land; It has maintained its rule because the Thai have always been united; The Thai people are peace-loving, but they are not cowards in times of war; They shall not allow others to take away their freedom; The Thai are ready to sacrifice every drop of their blood for the nation;
The government emblem is the Garuda, a mythical figure, half bird, half human, that adorns many items associated with the monarchy. All government offices have the Garuda incorporated into their insignia. Moreover, the Garuda symbol is awarded at the personal discretion of His Majesty the King to business enterprises that rendered outstanding charitable services to the country’s society and strengthened its economy. Such honorific award is rarely bestowed and, hence, held in high esteem.
December 5, the date when His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born, is also celebrated as the Thai national day.
GNP (2010) at current prices was approximately 4,396.21 billion baht or US$ 138.56 billion. Total merchandise exports in 2010 amounted to the approximate value of 6,113.34 billion baht or US$ 193.30 billion, and merchandise imports were valued at approximately 5,856.59 billion baht of US$ 182.93 billion.
Although there is no official national attire, certain features of traditional attire were adopted and can be seen on both formal and informal occasions. For women, it is a full-length pha sin, a rectangular piece of cloth worn like a skirt or sarong, mostly made of silk. The pha sin may be of any colour and usually has a contrasting, ornamental border above the hem. It is complemented by a long-sleeved silk blouse. On formal occasions a sash may be worn across the chest from the left shoulder to the right edge of the waist. For men, the traditional attire consists of trousers and a suea phra ratchathan, either a short-sleeved shirt as casual attire or a shirt with long sleeves for formal occasions, both with a stand-up collar. On formal occasions, a cummerbund is tied around the waist. The Sala Thai (Thai pavilion) is the country’s architectural symbol and represents the skills of Thai craftsmen. Chang Thai (Thai elephant or Elephas maximus) is a symbol historically and traditionally associated with Thailand. The national plant is the Rachaphruek (Cassia fistula Linn.), in English known as the Golden Shower Tree or Indian Laburnum.
National Symbols of Thailand
he area which is now Thailand has been populated ever since the dawn of civilization. The first humans in this region of Asia lived by hunting wild animals and gathering whatever grew in their natural environment. Later on, men and women learnt to modify nature, growing cereals such as rice, and breeding livestock. Rice growing communities sprang up. Metal casting and pottery making also became highly developed skills as prehistoric settlements prospered. Cast-bronze technology in the north-eastern area of Thailand dates from around 2000 B.C., resulting in prehistoric achievements at sites in Thailand just as advanced as at those of modern India and China. The spectacular finds at Ban Chiang, situated in Thailand’s Udon Thani Province, include bronze utensils and ornaments, painted pottery, and bimetallic (bronze and iron) weapons. Ban Chiang was apparently settled as far back as 6,000 years ago, and was continually inhabited for some 4,000 years. It was an agricultural community, with skilled metal workers and potters. Artistically, the glory of Ban Chiang can be found in the large amount of painted pottery; the most graceful shapes and intricate designs appear on pottery dating back to the period from 300 B.C. until 200 A.D.
From the 7th to the 11th centuries, a large area of what is now central and western Thailand was occupied by a Mon civilization know as Dvaravati. The ethnic groups of the Mon, who share the same linguistic lineage as the Khmer, were later to settle in southern Myanmar. Little is known about the political and social “empire” of Dvaravati. But is seems quite likely that there were several Mon states sharing a common culture, rather than a monolithic “empire” with a single capital city. Important
Mon and Khmer Dominance
ancient Dvaravati sites in Thailand include Nakhon Pathom, Khu Bua, Phong Tuk, and Lawo (Lop Buri). Some superb sculptures, bas-reliefs, and other archaeological remains survive from this obscure period of history Dvaravati was an “Indianised” culture, with Theravada Buddhism as the dominant religion. Theravada Buddhism was to remain the major religion in this area for the next millennium, co-existing with animism, Hinduism, and Mahayana Buddhism. Its ideas and philosophy inspired much of the Dvaravati art and sculpture, whose forms were also based on Indian prototypes. Throughout the 11th-12th centuries, Mon dominance over Central Thailand had been reduced by the power of the ever-expanding Khmer empire to the east. The capital of this empire was the great city of Angkor, and the Khmer rulers were masters of a tightly-organised society with remarkable capacities for territorial and cultural expansion. The Khmer also controlled most of the trade routes in the region of present-day Thailand, Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Vietnam. Khmer territories stretched well into the area that is present-day Thailand, covering its north-eastern region, much of its central region, and reaching as far west as Kanchanaburi Province. The Khmer built stone temples in the northeast, some of which have been restored to their former glory, notably those at Phimai and Phanom Rung. Stone sculptures and lintels depicting Hindu deities, stone Buddha images in the distinctive Khmer style, and bronze statuary, some of great beauty, are other vestiges of Khmer cultural dominance. Politically, however, the Khmers probably did not control the whole of this area directly but exerted power through vassals and governors. The fertile Chao Phraya River basin had always been an area with an ethnic mix of Mon, Khmer, and Lawa. Towards the end of the 13th century, Khmer power in this area waned and new kingdoms, dominated by the ethnic group of the Thai emerged. These had been influenced by Khmer rule and culture, but they brought other spectacular legacies, the origins of which are still a matter of historical dispute.
Arrival of the Thai
Based on research done in the southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan, where the Thai language is still spoken, it is assumed that the Thai migrated southward from these provinces. By the 13th century, the Thai had become a force to be reckoned with in mainland Southeast Asia, and Thai princes ruled over states as far apart as Lan Na in the far north, Suphannaphum (around present-day Suphan Buri) in the central region, and Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south, yet most importantly in the river plains around Sukhothai in the North.
The state that is still regarded by Thai historical tradition as the “first Thai kingdom” was Sukhothai. There were, in fact, other contemporaneous Thai states such as Lan Na and Phayao, both in present-day northern Thailand, but the Thai historical imagination has been most stirred by Sukhothai. Even today, the evocative ruins of Sukhothai and its twin city of Si Satchanalai conjure up images of material prosperity, artistic greatness, and Buddhist piety. Indeed, Sukhothai is remembered as much for its art and architecture as for its political achievements. Sukhothai was originally a principality under the sway of the Khmer empire; the oldest monuments in the city were built in the Khmer style, or else show clear Khmer influence. During the first half of the 13th century the Thai rulers of Sukhothai threw off the Khmer yoke and set up an independent Thai kingdom. One of the victorious Thai chieftains became the first king of Sukhothai, with the name of Si Intharathit (Sri Indraditya). Sukhothai’s power and influence expanded in all directions through conquest, as the Khmer were driven southwards, by a far-sighted network of marriage alliances with the ruling families of other Thai states, and by the use of a common religion, Theravada Buddhism, to cement relations with other states. Si Intharathit’s son and successor was King Ramkhamhaeng, undoubtedly the most famous and dynamic monarch ever to rule the Sukhothai Kingdom. Much of what we know about Sukhothai in the 13th century derives from a 1292 stone inscription attributed to King Ramkhamhaeng. It is considered a seminal source of Sukhothai history, as well as a masterpiece of Thai literature. It eloquently extols the benevolence of King Ramkhamhaeng’s rule, as well as the power and prosperity of Sukhothai. The King was accessible to his people, having had a bell hung in front of the palace gate so that any subject with a grievance could ring it and ask for justice: “King Ramkhamhaeng, the ruler of the kingdom, Hears the call; he goes and questions the man, Examines the case, and decides it justly for him. So the people of… Sukhothai praise him.”
Sukhothai (13th-15th Centuries)
According to this inscription, the King did not levy road tolls or taxes on merchandise, nor did he tax his subjects’ inheritance at all. Such a paternalistic and benevolent style of kingship has caused posterity to regard the Sukhothai Kingdom’s heyday as a “golden age” in Thai history. Even allowing for some hyperbole in King Ramkhamhaeng’s inscription, it is probably true that Sukhothai was prosperous and wellgoverned. Its economy was self-sufficient. The Thai people’s basic diet was the same as that of many other people in Southeast Asia, consisting of rice and fish as staple foods, both of which were plentiful according to the inscription: “In the time of King Ramkhamhaeng this land of Sukhothai is thriving. There are fish in the water And rice in the fields.” This historically first Thai inscription has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a “Memory of the World”. The statement in the inscription that “There is always fish in the water and rice in the field” indicates that the kingdom was well endowed with natural resources that sustained its people. Sukhothai may well have been self-sufficient as far as food was concerned, but its prosperity also depended on commerce. During the Sukhothai period glazed ceramic wares known as “sangkhalok” were produced in great quantities at kilns in Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai, and exported regularly to other countries bordering the South China Sea. Specimens were found in Indonesia and the Philippines. Sukhothai also traded with China through the traditional Chinese tributary system: the Thai king was content to send tribute to the Chinese emperor and be classified as a vassal, for permission to sell Thai goods and buy Chinese products, in return. Although animistic beliefs remained potent in Sukhothai, King Ramkhamhaeng and his successors were all devout Buddhist rulers who made merit on a large scale. The major cities of the Kingdom were, therefore, endowed with monasteries, many of which were splendid examples of Thai Buddhist architecture. Sukhothai adopted the Singhalese School of Theravada Buddhism, beginning with King Ramkhamhaeng’s invitation to Singhalese monks to
come and purify Buddhism in his kingdom. This Singhalese influence manifested itself not only in matters of doctrine but also in religious architecture. The bell-shaped stupa, so familiar in Thai Buddhist architecture, was derived from Singhalese models. Sukhothai-style Buddha images are distinctive for their elegance and stylised beauty, and Sukhothai artists introduced the graceful form of the “walking Buddha” to Buddhist sculpture. Sukhothai’s cultural importance in Thai history also derives from the fact that the Thai script evolved into a definite form during King Ramkhamhaeng’s time, taking as its models the ancient Mon and Khmer scripts. Indeed, this remarkable king is credited with having invented the Thai script. King Si Intharathit and King Ramkhamhaeng were both warrior kings who extended their territories far and wide. Their successors, however, could not maintain such a far-flung empire. Some of these later kings were more remarkable for their religious piety and extensive building activities than for their warlike exploits. An example of this type of Buddhist ruler was King Mahathammaracha Lithai, believed to have been the compiler of the Tribhumikatha, an early Thai book on the Buddhist universe or cosmos. The political decline of Sukhothai was, however, not wholly due to deficiencies in leadership. It resulted rather from the emergence of strong Thai states further south, whose political and economic power began to challenge Sukhothai during the latter half of the 14th century. These southern states, especially Ayutthaya, were able to deny Sukhothai access to the southern region. The Sukhothai Kingdom did not vanish at once. Its decline occurred from the mid-14th until the 15th century. In 1378, the Ayutthaya King Borommaracha I subdued Sukhothai’s frontier city of Chakangrao (presentday Kamphaeng Phet), whereupon Sukhothai became a tributary state of Ayutthaya. Sukhothai attempted to break loose from Ayutthaya but with no real success. In the 15th century it was incorporated into the territory of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. By then, the focus of Thai history and politics had shifted to the central plains of present-day Thailand, where Ayutthaya was establishing itself as a centralised state, its power outstripping not only Sukhothai but also other neighbouring states such as Suphannaphum and Lawo (present-day Lop Buri).
For 417 years, the Ayutthaya Kingdom was the dominant power in the fertile Chao Phraya River Basin. Its capital city, after which the kingdom is named, was situated at the confluence of three rivers, the Chao Phraya, the Pa Sak, and the Lop Buri, as well as a canal connecting the Chao Phraya and Lop Buri rivers, thus creating an island which grew into one of Asia’s most renowned metropolises, inviting comparison with such great European cities as Paris. The city must indeed have looked majestic, filled as it was with hundreds of monasteries and crisscrossed by canals which served as arteries and thoroughfares. An ancient community had existed in the Ayutthaya area well before 1350, the year of its official founding by King Rammathibodi I (also known as U Thong).The huge Buddha image at Wat Phanan Choeng, just outside the island city, had been cast over twenty years before King Ramathibodi I moved his residence to the city. The site offered a variety of geographical and economic advantages. The rivers and waterways offered not only easy access to the countryside but also to the Gulf of Thailand, which stimulated maritime trade. The surrounding rice fields were flooded each year during the rainy season, making the city virtually impregnable for several months annually. These fields, of course, served the even more vital function of feeding a relatively large population in the kingdom, as well as yielding a surplus large enough for export to various countries in Asia. Ramathibodi I, Ayutthaya’s first king, was both a warrior and a lawmaker. Some old laws codified in 1805 by the first Bangkok king date from this much earlier reign. King Ramathibodi I and his immediate successors expanded Ayutthaya’s territory, especially northward towards Sukhothai and eastward towards the Khmer capital of Angkor. By the 15th century, Ayutthaya had established a firm hegemony over most of the northern and central Thai states, though it failed in attempts to conquer Lan Na. It also captured Angkor on at least one occasion but was unable to hold on to it for long. The Ayutthaya Kingdom thus changed during the 15th century from being one of several similar small states in central Thailand into an increasingly centralised kingdom wielding tight control over a core
area of territory, as well as having looser authority over a string of tributary states. The greater size of Ayutthaya’s territory, compared with that of Sukhothai, meant that the method of government could not remain the same as during the days of King Ramkhamhaeng. The paternalistic and benevolent Buddhist kingship of Sukhothai would not have worked in Ayutthaya. The rulers of the latter, therefore, created a complex administrative system, beginning in the reign of King Trailok, also known as Boromma-trailokanat (1448-1488), which was to evolve into the modern Thai bureaucracy. It contained a hierarchy of ranked and titled officials, all of whom had varying amounts of “honour marks” (sakdina). Thai society during the Ayutthaya Period also became strictly hierarchical. There were roughly three classes of people, with the king at the very apex of the structure. At the bottom of the social scale, and most numerous, were the officials or nobles (khun nang); while at the top of the scale were the princes (chao). The one classless section of Thai society was the Buddhist monkhood, or sangha, into which all classes of Thai men could be ordained. The monkhood was the one institution which could weld together all the different social classes, the Buddhist monasteries being the centre of all Thai communities, both urban and rural. The Ayutthaya kings were not only Buddhist monarchs who ruled according to the dhamma; they were also devaraja, god-kings whose sacred power was associated with the Hindu deities Indra and Vishnu. To many Western observers, they seemed to be treated as if they were gods. The French Abbe de Choisy, who came to Ayutthaya in 1685, wrote that “the king has absolute power. He is the only god of the Siamese: no one dares to utter his name.” Another 17th century writer, the Dutchman Jan van Vliet, remarked that the king of Siam was “honoured and worshipped by his subjects more than a god.” The Ayutthaya Period was early Thai history’s great era of international trade. The port of Ayutthaya became an entrepôt; an international marketplace where goods from the Far East could be bought or bartered in exchange for merchandise from the Malay-Indonesian archipelago, India, or Persia, not to mention local wares or produce from Ayutthaya’s vast hinterland. The trading world of the Indian Ocean was accessible to Ayutthaya through its possession, for much of its long history, of the seaport of Mergui in the Bay of Bengal, which was linked to the capital by an ancient and frequently used overland trade route.
Throughout its history, Ayutthaya had a thriving commerce in “forest produce,” principally sappanwood (Caesalpinia sappan (Leguminosae) from which a reddish dye was extracted), eaglewood (an aromatic wood), benzoin (Styrax ssp. with balsamic resin used as frankincense), gum lac (used in wax), and deer hides (much in demand in Japan). Elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns were also highly valued export commodities, though the former was strictly a royal monopoly and the latter relatively rare, especially when compared with deer hides. Ayutthaya also sold provisions such as rice and dried fish to other Southeast Asian states. The range of minerals found in the kingdom was limited. Tin from Phuket (“Junkceylon”) and Nakhon Si Thammarat (“Ligor”) was much sought after by both Asian and European traders. The Chinese, with their large and versatile junks, were the traders who had the most regular and sustained contact with Ayutthaya. In order to conduct a steady and profitable trade with the Ming and Manchu China, from the 14th to the 18th centuries, the Ayutthaya kings entered willingly into a tributary relationship with the Chinese emperors. Muslim merchants came from India and farther west to sell their highly-prized textiles to both Thai and foreign traders. So dominant were Chinese and Muslim merchants in Ayutthaya that an old Thai law dating back to the 15th century divides the Thai king’s foreign trade department into two sections, one for each. Chinese, Indians, and later on Japanese and Persians all settled in Ayutthaya, the Thai kings welcoming their presence and granting them complete freedom of worship. Several of these foreigners became important court officials. Containing merchandise from all corners of Asia, the thriving markets of Ayutthaya attracted traders from Europe. The Portuguese were the first to arrive, in 1511, at the time when Albuquerque was attempting to conquer Melaka (Malacca). They concluded their first treaty with Ayutthaya in 1516, receiving permission to settle in the city and other Thai ports in return for supplying guns and ammunition to the Thai king. Portugal’s powerful neighbour Spain was the next European nation to arrive, toward the end of the 16th century. The early 17th century saw the arrival of two northern European East India Companies, the Dutch (V.O.C.) and
the British. The Dutch East India Company played a vital role in Ayutthaya’s foreign trade from 1605 until 1765, succeeding in obtaining from Thai monarchs a deer hide export monopoly as well as one on all the tin sold at Nakhon Si Thammarat. The Dutch sold Thai sappanwood and deer hides for good profit in Japan during its exclusion period, from 1635 onward. The French first arrived in 1662, during the reign of Ayutthaya’s most outward-looking and cosmopolitan ruler, King Narai (1656-1688). French missionaries and merchants came to the capital, and during the 1680s splendid embassies were exchanged between King Narai and King Louis XIV. The French tried to convert King Narai to Christianity and also attempted to gain a military foothold in the Thai kingdom when, in 1685, they sent troops to garrison Bangkok and Mergui. When a succession conflict broke out in 1688, an anti-French official seized power, drove out the French troops, and executed King Narai’s Greek favourite Constantine Phaulkon, who had been championing the French cause. After 1688, Ayutthaya had less contact with Western nations, but there was no policy of national exclusion. Indeed, there was increased trade with the Dutch, the Indians, and various other neighbouring countries. Ayutthaya’s relations with its neighbours were not always cordial. Wars were fought against Cambodia, Lan Chang (based in the present-day Lao PDR), Pattani and, above all, Burma. Burmese power waxed and waned in cycles according to their administrative efficiency in the control of manpower. Whenever Burma was in an expansionist phase, Ayutthaya suffered. In 1569, King Bayinnaung captured Ayutthaya, thus initiating over a decade’s subjection to the Burmese. One of the greatest Thai military leaders, Prince (later King) Naresuan, then emerged to declare Ayutthaya’s independence and to defeat the Burmese in several battles and skirmishes, culminating in the victory of Nong Sarai, when he killed the Burmese Crown Prince in combat on elephant back. During the 18th century, Burma again adopted an expansionist policy. The kings of the Alaungphaya Dynasty were intent on subduing the Ayutthaya Kingdom, then in its cultural and artistic prime. In the 1760s, Burmese armies inflicted severe defeats on the Thai, who had become somewhat complacent after almost one century of peace. In April 1767, after a 15-month siege, Ayutthaya finally succumbed to the Burmese, who sacked and burnt the city, thus putting an end to one of the politically most glorious and culturally influential epochs in Thailand’s history.
After the shattering defeat and destruction of Ayutthaya, the death or capture of thousands of Thai by the victorious Burmese, and the dispersal of several potential Thai leaders, the situation seemed hopeless. It was a time of darkness for the Thai nation. Members of the old royal family of Ayutthaya had died, escaped, or been captured, and many rival claimants for the throne emerged, based in different areas of the country. But out of this catastrophe emerged yet another saviour of the Thai state: the half-Chinese general Phraya Taksin, former governor of Tak. Within a few years this determined warrior had defeated not only all his rivals but also the Burmese invaders and had set himself up as king. Since Ayutthaya had been so completely devastated, King Taksin chose to establish his capital at Thon Buri, across the river from present-day Bangkok. Although a small town, Thon Buri was strategically situated near the mouth of the Chao Phraya River and therefore suitable as a seaport. The Thai needed weapons, and one way of acquiring them was through trade. Moreover, foreign trade was also needed to bolster the Thai economy, which had suffered extensively during the war with Burma. Chinese and ChineseThai traders helped revive the economy by engaging in maritime trade with neighbouring states, with China, and with some European nations. King Taksin’s prowess as a general and as an inspirational leader defeated Burmese attempts to reconquer Siam. The rallying of the Thai nation during a time of crisis was his greatest achievement. However, he was also interested in cultural revival, in literature and the arts. He was deeply religious and studied meditation to an advanced level. The stress and strain of so much fighting took their toll on the King, and following an internal political conflict in 1782 his fellow general, Chao Phraya Chakri, was chosen king. King Taksin’s achievements have caused posterity to bestow on him the epithet “the Great.”
King Taksin : Warfare and National Revival (1767-1782)
King Rama I (1782-1809) And the Reconstruction of the Thai State
The ensuing king, Phra Buddha Yot Fa Chulalok, or Rama I, was also a great general. In addition, he was an accomplished statesman, a lawmaker, a poet, and a devout Buddhist, His reign has been called the “reconstruction” of the Thai state and Thai culture, using Ayutthaya as the model, though not slavishly resurrecting all aspects of the old capital. He was the ruler who established Bangkok as the capital and was also the founder of the Royal House of Chakri, of which the present monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej is
the ninth monarch. The significance of his reign in Thai history is therefore manifold. King Rama I was intent on the firm re-establishment of the Buddhist monkhood, unifying religious order and state, and purifying the doctrine. The Tripitaka, or Buddhist scriptures, were re-edited in a definitive text by a grand council of learned men convened by the King in 1788-9. This concern with codification and textual accuracy was also apparent and new, which resulted in one of the major achievements of his reign, the “Three Seals Code” or Kotmai tra sam duang. This, too, was the work of a panel King Rama I of experts assembled by the King. King Rama I consistently explained all his reforms and actions in a rational manner. This aspect of his reign has been interpreted as a major change in the intellectual outlook of the Thai elite, or a re-orientation of the Thai world view. The organization of Thai society during the early Bangkok Period was not fundamentally different from that of the late Ayutthaya Period. Emphasis was still placed on manpower and on an extensive system of political and social privileges. The officials’ main concern was still to provide the Crown with corvée labour and to provide patronage to the commoners. The Burmese remained a threat to the Thai kingdom during this reign, launching several attacks on Thai territory. King Rama I was ably assisted by his brother and other generals in defeating the Burmese in 1785 and 1786. King Rama I not only drove out these invading armies but also launched a bold counter-attack in retaliation, invading Tavoy in Lower Burma. During this reign, Chiang Mai was added to the Thai kingdom, and the Malay states of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, and Terengganu all sent tribute to the Thai king. The recovery of the Thai state’s place and prestige in the region was one of the major achievements of King Rama I. His most obvious, long-lasting creation was perhaps the city of Bangkok (“Rattanakosin”). Before 1782, it had only been a small trading community. The first Chakri King transformed it into a thriving, cosmopolitan city based on Ayutthaya’s example. He had a canal dug to make it an island-city, which encompassed Mon, Lao, Chinese, and Thai communities, similar to Ayutthaya. Several Ayutthaya-style monasteries were also built in and around the city. King Rama I endeavoured to model his new palace closely on the royal palace at Ayutthaya, and in doing so helped create one of Bangkok’s enduring accomplishments comprising the Grand Palace and its resplendent chapel royal, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. He also completely rebuilt an old monastery, Wat Photharam, and renamed it Wat Phra Chetuphon,
King Rama II
which became not only an exemplar of classical Thai architecture but also a famous place of learning. The cosmopolitan outlook of the Thai during the reign of King Rama I is also reflected in the arts of that period. Both painting and literature during the early Bangkok period reflect a keen awareness of other cultures, though traditional Thai forms and conventions were adhered to, especially in art. The King and his court poets composed new versions of the Ramakian (the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana epic) and the Inao (based on the Javanese Panji story).
Phra Buddha Loet La Naphalai or Rama II, a son of King Rama I, acceded to the throne peacefully, fortunate to have inherited the throne during a time of stability. His reign was especially notable for the heights attained by Thai poetry, particularly in the works of the King himself and of Sunthon Phu, one of the court poets. King Rama II also had other artistic talents; he had a hand in the carving of the door-panels of the viharn at Wat Suthat, considered to be the supreme masterpiece of Thai woodcarving. Upon the demise of King Rama II, two princes were in contention for the succession. Prince Chetsadabodin was lesser in rank than Prince Mongkut but was older, had greater experience in government affairs, and relied on a wider power base. In a celebrated example of Thai crisis power management, Prince Mongkut (who had just entered the monkhood) remained a monk for the whole duration of his half-brother’s reign (18241851). Avoiding an open struggle worked out well for both the country and for the Royal House of Chakri. While King Nang Klao Chao Yu Hua or Rama III ruled firmly and with wisdom, his half-brother was accumulating experience which was to prove invaluable to him during his years as king. The priest-prince Mongkut was able to travel extensively to see for himself how the ordinary Thai lived and to lay the foundations for a reform of the Buddhist clergy. In the late 1830s he set up what was to become the Thammayut sect (dhammayutika nikaya), an order of monks which became stronger under royal patronage. To this day the royal family of Thailand remains closely associated with the Thammayut Order, though others also remain strong within the faith.
King Rama II and His Sons
The Growing Challenge Posed by the West
The major characteristic of Thai history during the 19th and 20th centuries may be summed up by the phrase “the challenge by the West”. The reigns of King Rama II and his two sons, Rama III and Rama IV, marked the
King Rama III
King Rama IV
first stage in the Thai Kingdom’s dealings with the West during the era of colonial imperialism. In the Ayutthaya Period the Thai had more often than not chosen just how they wanted to deal with foreign countries, European states included. By the 19th century this freedom of choice had become more and more constricted. The West had undergone a momentous change during the Industrial Revolution, and western technology as well as economic modes had begun to outstrip those of Asian and African nations. This fact was not readily apparent to the Asians of the early 19th century, but it became alarmingly obvious as the century wore on and several once-proud kingdoms fell under the sway of Western powers. Once the British had gained victory in Europe in the Napoleonic Wars, they resumed their quest for additional commerce and territory in Asia. King Rama III may have been conservative in outlook, striving hard to uphold Buddhism, also by having numerous monasteries built or repaired, and refusing to acknowledge the claims of Western powers to increased shares in the Thai trade, but he was above all a prudent ruler. He was justifiably wary of Western ambitions in Southeast Asia, but he was tolerant enough to come to an agreement with the British emissary Henry Burney, as well as to allow Christian missionaries to work in his kingdom. One of the men intellectually most stimulated by Western missionaries was Prince Mongkut. The priest-prince had an inquiring mind, a philosophical disposition, and a voracious appetite for knowledge. He learnt Latin from the French Catholic Bishop Jean-Baptiste Pallegoix and English from the American Protestant missionary Jesse Caswell. His intellectual interests were wide-ranging: not only did he study the Buddhist Pali scriptures but also Western astronomy, mathematics, science, geography, and culture. His wide knowledge of the West helped him to deal with Britain, France, and other powers when he reigned as king of Siam (1851-1868). King Mongkut was the first Chakri King to embark seriously on reforms
based on Western models. This did not mean any wholesale structural change, since he did not wish to undermine his own status as a traditional and absolute ruler. He concentrated, instead, on the technological and organisational aspects of reform. His reign saw road-building, canal-digging, ship-building, a reorganisation of the Thai armed forces in administration, as well as the minting of coins to meet the demand of a growing monetary economy. He employed Western experts and advisers at the court and in the administration. One of his employees was the English teacher Anna Leonowens, whose books on her time in Siam caused some misrepresentation of King Mongkut’s personality and reign. Far from being the “noble savage” figure portrayed in the musical “The King and I,” King Mongkut was a scholarly, conscientious, and humane monarch who ruled at a difficult time in Thai history.
The Reign and Reforms of King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910)
The reforms and foreign policy of King Mongkut were carried on by his son and successor, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who came to the throne as a frail youth aged 16 years and died one of Siam’s most loved and revered monarchs after a remarkable reign of 42 years. Indeed, modern Thailand may be said to be a product of the comprehensive and progressive reforms of his reign, as these touched almost every aspect of Thai life. King Chulalongkorn faced the western world with a positive attitude, eager to learn about Western ideas and inventions, working towards Western-style “progress” while at the same time resisting Western rule. He was the first Thai king to travel abroad. He visited Dutch and British colonial territories in Java, Malaya, Burma, and India, and also made two extended trips King Rama V to Europe, in the third and fourth decades of his reign. He did not just travel as an observer or visitor but worked hard during his sojourns to further Thai interests. For instance, during his first European sojourn he obtained support from Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and the German Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm II to put Siam in a stronger international position, no longer dominated by Britain and France. The King also travelled widely in his own country. He was passionately interested in his subjects’ welfare and was intent on the monarchy assuming a more visible role in society. His progressive outlook led him, in what was
his first official act, to forbid prostration in the royal presence, considering that the practice was humiliating to his subjects and apt to engender arrogance in the ruler. Influenced by Buddhist morality and Western examples, he gradually abolished both the corvée system of unpaid labour and the institution of slavery, a momentous and positive change for Thai society. During his reign, Siam’s communication systems were revolutionised. Post and telegraph services were introduced, and a railway network was built. Such advances enabled the central government to improve its control over outlying provinces. One of the central issues of King Chulalongkorn’s reign was the imposition of central authority over the more remote parts of the kingdom. He initiated extensive reforms of the administration, both in Bangkok and in the provinces. Western-style ministries were set up, replacing older, traditional administrative bodies. Old units which were remodelled according to the Western pattern included those of the Interior, Warfare, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Agriculture, the Palace, and Local Administration. Completely new ministries were also created, such as the ministries of Justice, Public Instruction, and Public Works. This new ministerial system of government was inaugurated in 1892. King Chulalongkorn’s contribution to education was also to prove of great significance to modern Thailand. During his reign, “public instruction” became more secular than ever before in Thai history. Secular schools were established in the 1880s designated to produce educated men necessary for the smooth functioning of a centralised administration. One of the pressing issues of the reign was the necessity to prove to Western colonial powers that Siam had become a “modern” and “progressive” country. The problem, however, was that the King and his advisers had too little time for comprehensive implementation. The King was eager to send Thai students abroad for advanced education, partly because the country needed skills and knowledge from the West, and partly because Thai students abroad could come into contact with Europe’s elite. Moreover, the King also hired several Westerners to act as advisers to the Thai government in various fields, among them the Belgian Rolin-Jacquemyns (a “General Adviser” whose special knowledge was in jurisprudence) and the British financial advisers H. Rivett-Carnac and W.J.F. Williamson. Such policies were deemed to be essential for Siam’s survival as a sovereign state and its progress to modernity. Thai foreign policy during King Chulalongkorn’s reign was a series of delicate balancing acts, playing off one Western power against another, and trying to maintain both sovereignty and territorial integrity. The heartland of Siam had to be preserved at all costs, even to the extent of conceding to Britain and France some peripheral territories whenever the pressure became too intense.
Even Siam’s subtle and supple foreign policy did not always suffice to offset the colonial powers’ appetite for territory. In 1893, Siam ceded all territories on the east bank of the Mekong River to France, then building up its Indochinese Empire. In 1904, it also had to cede some territories on the northwest bank of the Mekong River to France. The Siamese government wanted to put an end to the clauses concerning extraterritoriality, land taxation, and trade duties in the treaties concluded with Western countries during King Mongkut’s reign. In return for the mitigation of treaty disadvantages, several territories had to be ceded. For example, in 1907 the Khmer provinces of Siem Reap, Battambang and Sisophon were ceded to France in return for the French withdrawal from the south-eastern region around Chanthaburi and the abandonment of French extraterritorial claims over their “protected persons” (mostly Asians from French colonies or protectorates and, therefore, not properly French at all). In 1909, Siam gave up its claims to the Malay states of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, and Terengganu, all of which became British protectorates. This cession of territory was again agreed to in return for a lessening of certain treaty disadvantages. It was fortunate, indeed, for the kingdom that Britain and France agreed in 1896 to keep Siam as a “buffer state” between British and French territorial possessions in Southeast Asia. King Chulalongkorn kept Siam an independent sovereign state in spite of all these crises, and all the while he strove to uphold Thai cultural, artistic, and religious values. When he died in 1910, a new Siam had come into being. The Thai kingdom had become a centralised bureaucratic state partly modelled on Western examples. It was also a society without slaves, with a ruling class that was partly westernised in outlook and much more aware of what was going on in Europe and America. Technologically, too, there had been many advances, among them railroads and trams, postal services and telegraph lines. With so many achievements to the King’s credit, and a charisma that was enhanced by his longevity, it was no wonder that the Thai people genuinely grieved his passing. The date of his demise, 23 October, is a national commemoration day in honour of one of Siam’s greatest and most beloved monarchs.
Nationalism and the Constitution (1910-1932)
King Rama VI
King Chulalongkorn’s son and successor Vajiravudh (Rama VI) was the first Thai king to be educated abroad at Harrow School and Oxford University in England. King Vajiravudh (r.1910-1925) was noted for his accomplishments as a poet and dramatist, writing in both English and Thai, and as a
polemicist. He was a convinced nationalist and was the first person to try to instil a western-style nationalistic fervour in his subjects. Like his father he was determined to modernise Siam while still upholding traditional Thai values and royal authority. King Vajiravudh chose to work on issues and problems which appealed to his personal interests, largely in the literary, educational, and ideological fields. He was also keenly interested in military affairs and formed his own paramilitary organisation, the “Wild Tiger Corps”, to inculcate national pride.
After 1932 : Democratic Government under the Constitutional Monarchy
Modern Thai government, demarcated by 24 King Rama VII June 1932, is recognized as the starting point that ushered in democracy. It is perceived as the opening of a new chapter in Thai politics because of the creation of the political process, characterised by such democratic features as a constitution, and a cabinet of politicians. King Prajadhipok, also known as Rama VII (r. 1925-1935) abdicated, reasoning that he could no longer concur with the People’s Party in the constructive way he desired. His successor, King Ananda, also known as Rama VIII (r. 1935-1946), was the ten-year-old son of Prince Mahidol of Songkla, one of King Chulalongkorn’s sons. The King’s youthfulness and his absence from the country while pursuing his studies in Switzerland left the People’s Party with a relatively free hand in shaping the destiny of the Kingdom. During the 1940s, leading figures of the People’s Party dominated Thai politics. Two men in particular stood out: Dr. Pridi Banomyong and a young officer by the name of Luang Pibulsonggram (later Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram). While the country experimented with various forms and degrees of democracy and several constitutions were promulgated, the two groups which held power were alternately the military and the civilian bureaucratic elite. Dr. Pridi Banomyong tried to lay the foundation for a socialistic society with his economic plan of 1933 which, however, was considered too radical. In effect, it was proposed to nationalise all land and labour resources and to have most people working for the state as government employees. These ideas were unacceptable to the conservative elements, both within the People’s Party and also in the elite as a whole, spurning any sweeping structural change in Thai society. Dr. Pridi was forced into temporary exile, and the National Assembly was deferred. Government of the post-1932 era sought to keep a balance between civilian and military elements so as not to alienate any important group. For instance, in 1934 the exiled Dr. Pridi Banomyong was brought back into the administration as Interior Minister, largely because the then Prime Minister, General Phraya Phahol Pholphayuhasena, was eager to retain civilian support for his government. Phraya Phahol also appointed Luang Pibulsonggram to a
King Rama VIII
King Rama IX
ministerial post. During the period 1934-38, both Dr. Pridi and Luang Pibulsonggram strove hard to consolidate their political power, the former through the Thai intelligentsia and the latter through influence over the armed forces. When Phraya Phahol resigned in 1938, Luang Pibulsonggram succeeded him as Prime Minister, signifying that the military had gained a decisive advantage in the struggle for dominance in Thai politics. After 1933, Siam entered a period of military ascendancy. Some officers in the army wanted to see Siam progress into modernity, in terms of politics and government. Following a royalist revolt, army officers decided to involve themselves in politics and by acclamation chose the already prominent Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram as their leader. Hence, it was inevitable that the military became the dominant force. In 1941, the Pibulsonggram Government acceded to demands of overwhelming Japanese forces to cross over to neighbouring Burma. The policy saved the country from the devastation that would that would have undoubtedly followed had the government decided to continue with the initial resistance by the air force on the southern shores of Thailand. Dr. Pridi Banomyong and Mom Rajawongse Seni Pramoj (later also Prime Minister), however, were sympathetic to the Allies and worked with Thailand’s underground resistance movement at home and abroad. Towards the end of World War II, Field Marshal Pibulsonggram and his government resigned and Mr. Khuang Abhaiwongse, founder of the oldest political party, the Democrat Party, became the Prime Minister in 1944. In the following year, King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VIII) returned from Switzerland and Dr. Pridi became Prime Minister in 1946. The unexpected death of the young King generated popular dissatisfaction and once again the tide turned. Dr. Pridi Banomyong was forced into exile and Field Marshal Pibulsonggram again became Prime Minister. The year 1946 marks the beginning of the present reign with the accession to the throne of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX).
he institution of Thailand’s monarchy is in several ways unique and often difficult for outsiders to fully comprehend. Not only does it have a history going back more than seven hundred years, it continues to function with extraordinary relevance and vitality in the contemporary world. Indeed, although the Revolution of 1932 brought an end to the monarchy in its absolute form, the institution has remained powerful in the sense of providing a unifying element for the country, a focal point that brings together people from all backgrounds and shades of political thought and gives them an intense awareness of being Thai. This was clearly shown by the unprecedented outpouring of public pride and personal affection that greeted such occasions as His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s Golden Jubilee in 1996; the celebration of His Majesty’s Sixth Cycle Birthday in 1999; the 60th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne in 2006, and His Majesty’s Seventh Cycle Birthday in 2011. It is abundantly apparent in countless other ways, large and small. The intensity of respect felt by the Thai people for their King stems in large part from the distinctive form the modern monarchy has taken, one that involves a remarkable degree of personal contact. Also, it is rooted in attitudes that can be traced to the earliest day of Thailand as a nation and in past rulers who continue to serve as models of kingship.
Thai concepts of the monarchy have their origins in Sukhothai, founded in the early part of the 13th century and generally regarded as the first truly independent Thai kingdom. There and then, particularly during the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great (1275-1317), was born the ideal of a paternalistic ruler alert to the needs of his people and committed to guiding them; a stance markedly different from the divine kingship practiced by the contemporary Khmer rulers.
Background to the Modern Kingship
This paternalistic ideal was, at times, lost during the long Ayutthaya Period, when Khmer influence regarding kingship reappeared, and the monarch became a divine, inaccessible figure, rarely ever seen by the majority of the population. The four-century period witnessed the reigns of some remarkable rulers, whose achievements were far-reaching. With the founding of the Royal House of Chakri in 1782 and the establishment of Bangkok as the capital of Siam, kingship was based primarily on adherence to the Buddhist concept of virtue. The Rattanakosin or Bangkok Period produced a succession of highly gifted rulers capable of meeting a variety of challenges to both the country and the monarchy itself. Though it had lasted longer than most others in the world, largely due to the wise rule by kings of the Royal House of Chakri, the country’s absolute monarchy finally came to an end on 24 June 1932, when a group of military officers and civil servants staged a bloodless coup to demand a Constitution. King Prajadhipok (Rama VII, 1925-1935), who had already been thinking along such lines himself, and drafted a constitution which had been debated in the Supreme Council of State, agreed and thus became the first constitutional monarch. Three years later, unhappy with some of the results, he decided to abdicate. Prince Ananda Mahidol, his nephew, then a 10-yearold student in Switzerland, was chosen to succeed him as the eighth monarch of the Royal House of Chakri, as King Ananda (Rama VIII, 1935-1946).
The Forging of the Modern Monarchy
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born in 1927, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America, where his father, Prince Mahidol of Songkla, was studying medicine. After his father’s death, he lived mostly in Switzerland with his mother, sister, and elder brother. After one official visit to Siam accompanying King Ananda, in 1938, the family remained cut off from their homeland during World War II. Prince Bhumibol had a relatively ordinary youth, displaying notable talents both in music and engineering, and obtaining fluency in three European languages, French, German, and English, as well as being at ease in different cultures. During the royal family’s first post-war visit, in 1946, his brother, King Ananda, died, and Prince Bhumibol suddenly found himself in accession to the throne as the ninth Chakri King, Rama IX.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej returned to Switzerland to complete his education, changing from engineering to political science and law in recognition of his new role. During the course of this visit he met the beautiful, young Mom Rajawongse Sirikit Kitiyakara, daughter of the Thai ambassador to France. They were married in Bangkok on 28 April 1950, and seven days later His Majesty was officially crowned in ancient ceremonies held at the Grand Palace. In his Oath of Accession to the Throne, King Bhumibol Adulyadej pledged to “reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.” But what sort of reign would it be? After fifteen years of tumultuous change, during most of which the monarch had been merely a name to most Thai, was there still a place for the monarchy? If so, what form would it take? Doubts, if any, about popular acceptance of the monarchy were quickly dispelled. Vast crowds in Bangkok had already shown their enthusiasm in the course of the ceremonies that accompanied the royal wedding and the coronation, which members of the younger generation were witnessing for the first time. In 1955, the King and Queen went on a pioneering journey to the impoverished northeast, then a remote region that has never seen a ruling monarch in person. Its population had, with some reason, felt neglected by the central government. For 22 arduous days, the royal couple toured the region, visiting remote villages as well as towns, talking to ordinary people as well as monks and local officials. The response was overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands of people, some of whom walked for days from remote hamlets, turned out for even a fleeting glimpse of their King and Queen. The warmth of their greeting was unmistakable; so, too, was the extent of their needs as revealed in the conversations His Majesty had with those he met. The decision to bring the monarchy into direct contact with the rural population was perhaps one of the most important of all those taken by His Majesty. Subsequently, the King and members of the royal family would spend a large part of the year in one or another of the royal residences far away from Bangkok: in Chiang Mai in the north, Sakon Nakhon in the northeast, Hua Hin on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand, and Narathiwat in the Deep South. When residing at these “regional” palaces, His Majesty set out to eventually visit every province in the kingdom, defying discomfort and inconvenience when travelling by helicopter, jeep, train, boat, or, on
occasion, on foot to do field reconnaissance and assess local conditions by himself. In the process, he became the most travelled monarch in Thai history, as well as the best informed about a wide range of constraints and difficulties as well as potential and prospects for development especially in remote rural areas. Often assisted by members of the royal family -- Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, and Their Royal Highnesses Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn -- the King made copious notes on reconnaissance trips. Using his notes, His Majesty initiated action to provide assistance, working through the appropriate government agencies or sometimes using his own funds, the latter salutary intervention particularly at the early stage. His Majesty established the Chaipattana Foundation to provide initial financial support in cases of emergency, in preparation of subsequent development projects. A royal directive is never simply issued; the impetus comes from the local population, who must concur with the royal proposal and be able to cooperate on its implementation. More than 4,000 royal-initiated projects were launched in this manner. Covering a broad range, encompassing agriculture, water resources, conservation of the environment and its natural resources, occupational promotion, public health, public welfare, and communication, all were aimed at raising the standard of rural life to help farmers to become self-reliant. Some royal-initiated projects are fundamental in nature, like water conservation schemes and irrigation in the semi-arid Lower Northeast, or drainage and land reclamation in the South, which faces the problem of floods. In others, imaginative solutions were applied. His Majesty was the guiding force behind an artificial rain-making project which started in the late 1950s and took about ten years of experiments and refinement; the first field operations began in 1969 above Khao Yai National Park straddling the provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima, Prachin Buri, Nakhon Nayok and Saraburi. Since then, methods and techniques have been successfully applied countless times throughout the kingdom, whenever conditions were suitable. Neighbouring countries also called on Thai teams to assist in times of drought.
Another early endeavour was His Majesty’s Hilltribe Development Project in the North, now known as the Royal Project and encompassing lowland areas as well. Migratory tribal people living in the mountainous region near Thailand’s borders with the Lao PDR and Myanmar had caused serious problems, partly due to their destructive slash-and-burn technique of clearing land, and partly owing to their traditional cultivation of opium poppy. Under His Majesty’s Project a wide variety of new crops were introduced to replace poppy cultivation, and educational as well as medical facilities were set up at newly created permanent hill-tribe settlements. International recognition of the Royal Project’s effectiveness has come in many forms, including financial grants and expert assistance by several foreign governments. In 1988 the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding was bestowed upon the Royal Project. In short, it may be said that through this project, His Majesty has given the tribal people a sense of belonging to Thai society and, in effect, prevented them from falling prey to communist influence, which would have cost the government vast sums of money for security expenses and might have entailed the loss of many lives. As it was, resources could instead be channelled for the development of the country’s socioeconomic infrastructure. Two other important projects may also serve as examples: On His Majesty’s many visits to rural areas he observed how water shortages adversely affected rice cultivation. In 1992, he outlined a “New Theory” of water conservation using small reservoirs and diversifying crop production. Tests proved the concept to be practical and effective, with the result that it was adopted by farmers in all parts of the country. Another project concerned flood control, a problem not only in Bangkok but also in other areas. His Majesty suggested that various methods be employed according to local conditions; these included water diversion ditches, watercourse improvement, and reservoirs to retain water that would otherwise run off and be wasted. One programme is devised specifically for the low-lying Central Region and Bangkok; it has helped significantly in preventing serious flooding that was once commonplace in the capital
Implementation of royal-initiated projects takes into consideration the following major principles: His Majesty always emphasises that projects should aim to solve immediate problems, especially in emergencies. Examples are the development work in Buri Ram Province on the Thai-Cambodian border which was backward and under communist control. Once royal-initiated projects had been launched there, security was restored and problems were resolved. More recent cases of this type of approach include the solving of traffic congestion and flood control in the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration area.
Tackling the immediate problems
Development according to steps, necessity, and economy
According to this principle, Thai people should be encouraged to become self-reliant and build productive communities as pillars of society. Examples include the Rice Bank Project, the Cattle Bank Project, and the Hup Krapong Land Management and Development Project in Cha-Am District, Phetchaburi Province. All of these are geared to provide farmers with means of production such as land on which to live and cultivate, by encouraging them to form cooperatives in order to solve occupational and other problems. His Majesty stresses the necessity of having “a demonstration model of success” to allow farmers the opportunity to observe the model of success and apply it to their own occupation. Six Royal Development Study Centres were established in five regions to conduct research and experimentation on applications of modern knowledge and technology, which farmers can apply in earning their livelihood. Moreover, the methodology employed in these centres is inexpensive and suitable to the environment and occupation of the local people.
Mobilising self-supporting synergies
His Majesty emphasises development work which aims to strengthen the community up to the self-supporting level, in order to equip it with a strong foundation prior to future progress. He uses the expression “explosion from within”, which means the community or village must be empowered and strengthened before being exposed to the outside world.
Promotion of modern and appropriate knowledge and technology
Conservation and development of natural resources
His Majesty is immensely interested in the conservation of natural resources, because the recent, rapid modernisation rendered evidence of how sheer economic growth resulted in overuse or misuse of such resources. To safeguard against such detrimental side-effects, His Majesty favours the conservation and development of natural resources as the foundation of the country’s overall development. Examples of this concern include the Watershed Conservation Project, the Forest Loves Water Project, the Wildlife Conservation Project, and the Land Development Project.
Promotion and improvement of environmental conditions
Thai society has become increasingly urbanised, which leads to economic progress chiefly in major cities of the various regions and in the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration area. At the same time, the country’s environment has deteriorated. Therefore, many royal-initiated development projects are aimed at solving environmental problems especially in regard to water pollution through wastewater treatment, in Bangkok as well as in urban regional growth centres. Besides bringing obvious benefits to the country, such activities have yielded other results, less tangible but no less important. They have made the monarchy a potent moral force in Thai society and reinforced His Majesty’s paternal image that inspires both respect and deep affection. During a student-led uprising in 1973, both sides tuned to the King for advice that eased tensions and prevented more bloodshed. His Majesty provided equally wise counsel during Thailand’s struggle against the communist insurgency, suggesting solutions aimed at alleviating rural poverty and inspiring confidence in the government’s constructive efforts. It can be said that, following the end of the conflict in Indochina, Thailand did not become “the next domino to fall to communism”, as has been feared in some quarters of world. This was due, to a great extent, to His Majesty’s leadership and wisdom. In May 1992, violence once again broke out between prodemocracy activists and military units. Television audiences around the world viewed the scene when the leaders of the conflicting factions were granted an audience by His Majesty, whose advice ended the confrontation. His Majesty the King similarly provided a unifying role in 2006 when he granted royal assent to the formation of an interim government, thereby avoiding any violent conflict.
In recent decades, His Majesty has tended to devote himself mainly to his developmental projects and the exigencies germane to his status and role as monarchical head of state, both clearly focused on the Kingdom of Thailand. In earlier years, however, His Majesty paid state visits to more than 30 countries. He frequently receives and entertains visiting monarchs and heads of state, and by meeting with nearly all the leaders of the contemporary world, has kept abreast of current international affairs. In June 1988, King Bhumibol Adulyadej became the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history, surpassing the 42-year reign of his grandfather, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910). In 1996, His Majesty celebrated his Golden Jubilee, an even more notable landmark. In 1999, he observed his 72nd birthday, a milestone accompanied by an outpouring of affection from his people. With equal affection, in 2006 celebrations were held on the auspicious occasion of the 60th anniversary of His Majesty’s accession to the throne. That made him the longest-reigning monarch in today’s world. It culminated in the grand reception attended by monarchs or representatives of 25 of the contemporary world’s 28 monarchies, as a show of congratulatory tribute to His Majesty’s dedication, foresight, and wisdom, reflected in Thailand’s economic growth, the well-being of its people, and the security of the nation. Another auspicious milestone was reached in 2011 when His Majesty celebrated his 7th cycle, 84th birthday with the full support and admiration of a grateful nation.
Traditional Royal Prerogatives
His Majesty presides over numerous official functions, many of them deeply rooted in Thai tradition. Three times a year, at the beginning of each season, he ritually changes the robes of the sacred Emerald Buddha image. Moreover, as a devout Buddhist, he participates in numerous merit-making ceremonies at temples all over the country. He is regarded as the Upholder of all Religions, indeed, and as such has actively promoted better understanding between Thai Buddhists and other religious groups such as the Muslims in
the southernmost provinces. All newly-arrived ambassadors present their credentials to His Majesty, and he grants audiences to foreign heads of state, diplomats, and officials of international organizations. As Head of State, he convenes the National Assembly at the beginning of each session, and every draft law is submitted to him for his signature before promulgation. Early in his reign, His Majesty began to attend graduation ceremonies, personally handing out degrees to graduates of Thai universities and military academies. The recent growth in the number of such institutions has made it necessary to delegate this responsibility to members of the royal family, though in certain cases His Majesty still presides over the ceremonies at Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities. To coordinate his active schedule, His Majesty relies on a special category of civil servants classified as belonging to the Court. The Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary and the Bureau of the Royal Household are domiciled at the Grand Palace. The Chitralada Villa in the grounds of the Dusit Palace serves as the royal residence. Officials maintain the royal appointment calendar, arrange ceremonial functions, manage royal finances, supervise royal housekeeping, and perform a wide range of related administrative duties. Many members of the staff regularly accompany members of the royal family on travels throughout the country. The King personally appoints the members of his Privy Council, a body composed of distinguished advisers noted for their exceptional experience and knowledge of state affairs. The Privy Council reviews all draft laws and makes germane recommendations to His Majesty. It meets twice weekly to deliberate particular or complex issues, such as appeals for royal clemency or a request without precedent, before forwarding recommendations for His Majesty’s consideration.
The dedication to public service exemplified by King Bhumibol Adulyadej is also found in other members of the royal family. Like His Majesty, all members of the royal family work untiringly for the benefit of the country, sometimes participating in projects initiated by the King and sometimes in others of their own. In doing so, all have contributed significantly to the creation of Thailand’s modern monarchy. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit spends as much time travelling as does her husband, equally indifferent to discomfort and long hours, and her interest in the welfare of rural people closely parallels those of His Majesty. An area in which she has taken a particularly deep interest involves finding sources of supplementary income for farmers in the off-season, or when crops are destroyed by droughts or floods. It was to solve such problems that the Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Techniques, widely known by its acronym “SUPPORT”, was established in 1976 under Her Majesty’s patronage, partly through funds supplied by Her Majesty and partly with donations by the public. SUPPORT has as its primary objective the formation of women’s groups and to provide them with training, equipment, and materials to set up and operate cottage industries especially in rural areas. Among the traditional crafts deemed worthy of being promoted in both local and world markets are embroidery and weaving in the North; producing a kind of silk fabric with woven ikat or rhombic patterns called mudmee in the Northeast; making dolls and rattan ware in the Central region, and weaving yan lipao, a basketry using the fibre of a strong vine that grows in the South. Most of the crafts are indigenous to the areas where the projects have been set up and generate income to meet basic necessities, particularly when emergencies arise. Besides individual projects in various parts of the country, SUPPORT established two multi-craft training centres. One is situated in the premises of Chitralada Villa on the grounds of the Dusit Palace, where around 200 trainees attend courses and workshops conducted by masters of particular crafts. The other is the Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Centre, located on the Chao Phraya River downstream of the historical capital city of Ayutthaya, which has an enrolment of around 300 persons. Trainees receive a daily allowance,
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit
Her Majesty Queen Sirikit works urtiringly for rural communities.
travelling expenses, and remuneration for the crafts they produce. Upon completion of their training, they return to their home area where they act as “multipliers” by passing on their newly acquired skills to local men and women. In this vein, Her Majesty’s royal projects provide vocational training to people in rural areas, as well as opportunities to develop and market their products. Training enables the villagers to gain extra skills, earn additional income and, thus, improve their livelihood. The Queen has personally undertaken the promotion of these crafts through travels abroad to meet potential buyers and also by using them prominently in her own wardrobe; mudmee, for example, which was once hardly known outside the region where it was made, is now regarded as one of the most fashionable dress materials made in Thailand. The Queen’s interest in handicraft development led to the celebration of the Thai Arts and Crafts Year in 1989, which featured a wide variety of exhibitions, skill demonstration fairs, and promotional events under the auspices of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. For her work among rural women, Her Majesty Queen Sirikit was awarded the prestigious Ceres Medal by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 1988 the Queen was awarded an Honorary Fellowship by Great Britain’s Royal College of Physicians for Her Majesty’s “deep concern for the health and welfare of the people of Thailand”. Established in the 16th century, it is the highest honour the college confers. The Queen’s efforts on behalf of the less fortunate members of society were also extended to refugees from Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Vietnam who came to Thailand in large numbers, in the late 1970s. Members of the northern hill tribes also benefit, with many of them attending SUPPORT centre training programmes, where they are given new ideas to use in practising such traditional skills as embroidery and jewellery making. Sharing the King’s concern about the degradation of the natural environment, the Queen is an active member of the Thailand Chapter of the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF Thailand). For many years, she has lent her support to the conservation of forests as core areas of watershed development and habitat in which to preserve wild animals, especially those in danger of extinction. To this end, she has effectively facilitated a reforestation project in the North-east and worked closely with concerned people in protecting wildlife habitats.
Other members of the Royal Family often accompanied HM the King on field trips.
The Royal Family
Their Majesties’ only son, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, was born in Bangkok in 1952. Prince Vajiralongkorn was invested as Crown Prince in 1972. After completing his primary education in Thailand, His Royal Highness attended secondary school in England, and then enrolled at Australia’s King’s School and University of New South Wales, in the Faculty of Military Studies. Upon his return to Thailand, the Crown Prince took up his duties which, besides serving in the Royal Thai Armed Forces, include frequent provincial tours and representing His Majesty the King at a wide variety of official functions and ceremonies. Of particular interest to His Royal Highness are the hospitals which were set up in the provinces with funds donated by the public. On several occasions, His Royal Highness made state visits to foreign countries as His Majesty’s representative. Their Royal Highnesses Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn were born in Bangkok in 1955 and 1957, respectively. Both princesses received their education in Thailand, from primary school through university education. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the first of the royal children to attend a local institution of higher learning, received her B.A. degree from the Faculty of Arts of Chulalongkorn University, where she majored in History. She also holds M.A. degrees in Oriental Epigraphy from Silpakorn University as well as in Pali-Sanskrit from Chulalongkorn University, and a doctorate in Development Education from Srinakharinwirot University. A gifted performer on traditional Thai musical instruments, she regularly accompanies her royal father on his visits to His Majesty’s rural development projects and assists the King in collecting information relevant to their operations.
Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn graduated with a B.Sc. degree from Kasetsart University. A gifted scientist who was awarded the coveted Einstein Gold Medal in 1986, she also holds a doctorate in Organic Chemistry from Mahidol University. In 1987, she set up the Chulabhorn Research Institute to promote scientific research in Thailand. She lectured on a number of occasions at academic institutions abroad. Members of the Royal Family have always carried out their duties with great efficiency and dedication, lending valuable support to His Majesty in many areas of national development. In 1978, Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn was bestowed with a new title and rank in recognition of her services to the throne and to the nation, henceforth known as Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
There are two building complexes today associated with the monarchy: the Grand Palace, over 200 years old, and Chitralada Villa in the grounds of Dusit Palace, the much smaller and less ornate residence which King Bhumibol Adulyadej chose as his family’s residence in Bangkok. The resplendent Grand Palace, an enclosure covering 24.3 hectares on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, is one of Thailand’s best known landmarks. Today it houses the offices of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary, the Bureau of the Royal Household, and some offices of the Treasury Department. The earliest buildings in the palace compound, regarded as masterpieces of classic Thai architecture, were constructed in the reign of King Rama I (1782-1809), founder of the Royal House of Chakri. Extensive additions in both Thai and Western styles were made by subsequent rulers. Though the King no longer makes his home in the Grand Palace, its historic buildings are still used for most of the important ceremonies associated with the Thai monarchy. Coronations, for example, took place in the Phra Thinang Phaisan Thaksin, one of a group of early structures of royal edifices including the throne hall known as the Phra Maha Monthian. This magnificently decorated hall contains, among other things, the Octagonal Throne, from which the King formally received the invitation from representatives of the people to rule over the kingdom, and the Phatthrabit Throne, on which he was presented with the Royal Regalia, the Royal Utensils, and the Royal Weapons of Sovereignty. The adjoining Amarin Winitchai Throne Hall originally served as the Principal Audience Hall. It is still used for the grand
audience on His Majesty’s birthday anniversary and for royal religious ceremonies throughout the year. The Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall, also built by King Rama I, provides the setting for the annual Buddhist and Brahmin Coronation Day anniversary rites. It is also the customary place where to repose the remains of deceased kings, queens, and senior members of the royal family, prior to their cremation. The Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall, a large western-style throne hall built by His Majesty’s grandfather, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 18681910), between 1876 and 1882, is used for royal receptions and banquets it is also the venue where King Bhumibol Adulyadej receives the credentials of newly arrived foreign ambassadors to Thailand. Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, commonly known as Wat Phra Kaeo, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which occupies one section of the palace compound, serves as the Chapel Royal and houses Thailand’s most revered Buddha image. His Majesty performs certain important religious ceremonies there during the year, among them the ritual changing of the image’s jewel-encrusted regalia at the beginning of the hot, cool, and rainy seasons. Chitralada Villa on the grounds of the Dusit Palace serves not only as the Royal Residence in Bangkok, but also serves several other functions. There is also a hospital which serves the royal staff and needy people; a school, and assorted experimental agricultural facilities open to students from various schools. In addition, four other royal palaces are maintained at Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand;
above the northern city of Chiang Mai; in Sakon Nakhon Province of the Northeast; and in Narathiwat, a southern province. Over the years, Their Majesties the King and Queen, together with members of the royal family, have used these palaces as regional bases from which to set out on daily working visits to care for the needy people in rural areas.
Various Distinctive Characteristics of the Monarchy
One of King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s most spectacular legacies passed down from his ancestors is his fleet of ornately carved royal barges. Largely gold and scarlet, these vessels were mostly constructed during the reigns of early Chakri kings and resemble the barges that were used by Ayutthaya kings in battle and for transport. Powered by brilliantly-costumed, chanting oarsmen, they have been used to carry His Majesty to the riverside Wat Arun, the “Temple of Dawn”, to present monks with robes after the annual Rainy Season Retreat. Another royal prerogative ensures that all “white” elephants found in Thailand, esteemed as “auspiciously significant elephants”, become the King’s exclusive property. The discovery of any one of these animals is considered a good omen, and those elephants are presented to the monarch so that his reign may prosper. Regarded as an honorary human being, each “auspiciously significant elephant” is awarded a lordly title and thereafter leads a befittingly lordly life. King Bhumibol Adulyadej has had seventeen white elephants (eleven still alive), the highest number any Thai king ever owned, which is regarded as an exceptionally auspicious sign that augurs well for his reign.
The King inspects an “auspiciously significant elephant”.
The garuda, a mythical half-bird, half-human figure which, in Hindu legend, served as the mount for the god Vishnu, adorns King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s sceptre and royal standard, as in former times the king was considered an incarnation of Vishnu. Thus, it is used as the emblem on government stationary and as badges on caps for civil service officials, since technically government affairs are conducted in the service of His Majesty the King. Moreover, the garuda signifies the concept of “Purveyor to the Court by Royal Appointment”. It is awarded at His Majesty’s personal discretion as a sign of royal appreciation to business companies that render outstanding economic and charitable services to Thailand. Such an award is rarely bestowed and considered a great honour by its recipient. In line with other monarchs, King Bhumibol Adulyadej bestows awards and honours on government employees and ordinary citizens who have served the country with civic, administrative, or diplomatic distinction, and to individuals who have rendered great service to the Crown. One distinctive feature of Thai royalty is that royal titles are not inherited in perpetuity but lapse gradually over five generations. Thai royal titles descend through the ranks of Chao Fa, Phra Ong Chao, Mom Chao, Mom Rajawongse, and Mom Luang. The children of one rank inherit the next lower rank on the father’s side, so that a male Mom Chao’s son or daughter is a Mom Rajawongse, while a male Mom Luang’s child is a commoner addressed as Mister or Miss. Once titles have lapsed, families of royal descent may add to their family name the suffix “na Ayutthaya”, meaning “of Ayutthaya”, thus indicating royal ancestry. Adhering to the traditionally close relationship between king and people, yet daring to be innovative, Thailand’s modern monarchy meets needs that are at once old and new. This makes it the central element in the traditional Thai triad of nation, king, and religion, binding the diverse elements of the country in a literal as well as symbolic way. Much of its extraordinary success is due to the dedication and personal example set by the ninth monarch of the Royal House of Chakri who, in 1987, was popularly acclaimed as “Maharaj”, or King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, by his loyal and loving subjects.
A Monarchy for the Times
THE LAND AND ITS PEOPLE
The Land and Its People
ost of the people of this country call themselves Thai, which means “free,” and their country Mueang Thai, “the Land of the Free.” In this free nation, the people love fun (rak sanuk), have cool hearts (chai yen), and good hearts (chai di). By nature, Thais always welcome all foreigners who come to their country. Historically, elements of Oriental and Western civilizations have selectively been adopted to suit the country’s evolution and modernization. Thailand, a long country measuring about 1,500 kilometres from north to south, is shaped like an ancient axe stretching from south to north, and turning its “blade” to the east, invoking the image of the country as a golden axe (khwan thong). The topography is varied, with an alluvial flatland intersected by winding rivers and streams in the central plain; a plateau in the northeast; forest-covered mountains and hills in the north, and mostly hills in the south. The Central Region, heartland of the country, encompasses the basin of the Chao Phraya River. It is a major producer of rice, and also the most densely populated region with the capital city, Bangkok at its southern rim. The Northern Region comprises a series of parallel mountain ranges with an average elevation of 1,200 metres above sea level, incised by steep valleys of the Ping, Wang, Yom, and Nan rivers that jointly give birth to the Chao Phraya River. A large expanse of the mountains is covered with forests. Doi Inthanon, the highest point in the country with an elevation of 2,595 metres, is located in the extreme northwest of the region whose centre is Chiang Mai, the second largest city.
The North-eastern Region principally consists of a saucer-shaped terrain known as Khorat Plateau with average elevations of 200 metres. The Eastern Region, along the Gulf of Thailand, with Chon Buri as its centre, is distinguished from the northeast in that it is far wealthier owing to its wellestablished industrial and tourism infrastructures, making it the second most affluent region after the Central Region. The Southern Region, straddling the northern half of the Malay Peninsula, has a rolling mountainous topography with little flat land. The countryside is often breathtaking; an attribute increasingly tapped for the development of tourism. Traditionally, the region’s relative wealth stems from its most important natural resources of tin and rubber. Thailand has a number of minority groups that, historically, have lived together in harmony. This is what gives the Thai citizenry its strong sense of identity, or rather its culture, with various vernaculars and diversity. Though the Thai language is spoken quite differently in parts of the country, its written form is standardized. The monarchy is the unifying element, for decades personalized by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The Kingdom of Thailand is a country of diverse cultures and religious beliefs. Almost 95% of its population are Buddhists, 4% are Muslims, and the remaining 1% Taoists, Confucians, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs mostly living together amicably. Throughout the year, many traditional festivals, seasonal events, and religious ceremonies bring the people together in a single-minded joy. Thai society’s basic unit is the family, reflected in the lifestyle of its villagers. In general, this is an extended family, with several generations living under one roof, or at least under several roofs within the same compound. This is where Thai children learn codes of behaviour that guide them throughout their life, whether spent in the village or beyond. A village house builds a strong sense of social harmony, generating compromise and tolerance. The father is regarded as the leader, while the mother also plays a dominant role, especially concerning financial matters. A sense of responsibility or accountability is also generated in early childhood. Each child must assume duties in accordance with age and ability – feeding livestock, leading buffaloes to graze on nearby pastures, and taking care of younger siblings while parents are at work in the fields. As children grow older, responsibilities grow and they join family discussions and participate in crucial decisions. One inviolate rule of the Thai concept of family is that children must take good care of their parents in old age. But caring for aged
parents is no inconvenience at all; they are accorded an honoured place in the house. This sense of duty and grace will be handed down to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren in days to come.
Village Code of Conduct
A typical Thai village comprises a group of houses and other buildings, such as a wat (temples and monasteries), schools, government organizations, and some shops. And typically, a villager has a role in the mosaic of village life. Routine village life begins early in the morning; all family members rise at first light with the songs of the birds. The wife prepares the family’s breakfast and packed lunch, and offers food to local monks who walk past their house on their alms round early in the morning. Father prepares his tools for the fields, while the children get ready for school. Village folk wear loose fitting clothes; men wear shorts, a simple shirt, and their versatile pha khaoma – a chequered, rectangular piece of cloth loosely worn around the waist which, at any moment, can double as a turban for protection from the sun. A typical village has 100 to 150 households and 500 to 700 inhabitants. These days, most villages have electric power, but water for washing and cooking is drawn from canals, rivers or ponds. In the drier North-east it may be drawn from communal wells. Found on the village outskirts are the local schools and the wat, or Buddhist monasteries, sometimes adjacent to one another, sometimes at opposite ends of the village. Each village is self-governing, led by an elected headman, or phuyaiban who, until the early 1980s, was always a male. Since 1983, however, women have also been elected to the position. The phuyaiban preserves social harmony, valued so highly by all Thais, by skilfully settling minor disputes, taking care to ensure that neither party feels cheated or loses face. In addition, he or she maintains the birth and death records for the village and acts as a spokesman for the community in negotiations with government bureaucrats. A phuyaiban chairs the village committee, a local body which comprises around 16 members including the village chief, his or her assistant, members of the local government council, representatives of villagers, and senior villagers. The village committee appointed by the District Chief Officer helps implement and support the work of government agencies as well as local governments. All phuyaiban within each sub district (tambon) elects one among them to be kamnan, or community head-person. Thailand has 7,255 tambon.
Village Organisation and Leadership
The focal point of a village is the wat (temple), which symbolises Buddhism and acts as the major unifying element, particularly during festivals and merit-making ceremonies when it also becomes a social centre for young and old alike. Within the wat the abbot has administrative, clerical, custodial, disciplinary, and spiritual responsibilities, which determine the monastery’s relationship with the village. Buddhist teachings are taught at school, and most males will at sometime in their lives ordain as a monk (bhikkhu) for a few days, three months, or even a year. Males enter the monkhood aiming to reciprocate their parents’ sacrifices and kindness, and sometimes their grandparents as well. Many Thai males do this as a preparatory step before entering marriage and family life. Family bonds across generations play a significant role. And within such a behavioural framework, Thais share very definite views on what constitutes friendship and enjoyment. Sincere friendship is extremely intense; the language is rich in expressions which reflect the degree of involvement and willing self-sacrifice. Such relationships are found particularly among men. A “phuean tai” – literally, “death friend” -- is a companion for whom to die would be an honour. Should a friend get into difficulties, his friend feels it is an obligation to help him, regardless of the danger to himself, because “tong chuai phuean” -- “one must help one’s friend”. On the level of acquaintanceship, politeness predominates. When greeting people, Thais will usually show their concern for another’s health by remarking how “thin” or “fat” he or she has become. Such remarks are gestures of friendship.
Individual Life Cycle
Children are given their individual nicknames at birth. Their given names are then recorded in the official household register. Childhood is a carefree and cosseted time: Boys play games, fly kites, plough imaginary fields, or catch insects and harmless reptiles; girls nurse make-shift dolls, play games, and look after younger siblings. Gradually, the children are drawn into work patterns. Girls increasingly help with the household chores, and boys assume greater responsibilities such as feeding and guarding livestock as they graze or wallow in mud-holes in the fields. Children attend the local primary government school where they acquire various degrees of formal education and study Buddhist ethics as well as Thai history. Children experience a broadening of social interaction by making contacts with neighbouring villages and from visits to the district and provincial centres on school trips. As they grow up, they are assigned more tasks and given greater responsibilities. A girl’s adolescence is a gentle episode, and marriage alliances are oft times forged within one’s own village. Before getting married, many males become ordained into the monkhood at
their local monastery. According to Buddhist belief, married life should begin with meritmaking. In this spirit, the bride and groom offer alms to the monks of their local monastery and present them with small gifts. Monks will then bless the couple and the home where they will live together. The marriage ceremony is a public proclamation that the groom and bride will live together and raise a family. A penchant for pleasure, or khwam sanuk, is a trait of the gregariousness that makes both spontaneous and formal leisure activities vital events of a village’s social life. Rice cultivation demands consistent hard work, but the communal gatherings that ensue set the stage for all types of group activities from feasting to courting. Some evenings, after a hard day’s work, many villagers gather around bonfires to chat. Throughout the year, villagers share a common interest in gambling, travelling (pai thieo), and sports. Takraw and kite flying are popular traditional sports and, during temple fairs, another popular sport is Thai boxing, a form of martial art developed since ancient times. A large measure of Thai cuisine is hot, thanks to the addition of a variety of chillies, large and small, some more potent than others. However, food varies from region to region, with modifications of standard dishes and also local specialties. In Chiang Mai, for example, the food is generally milder than that of the central region; naem, a spicy pork sausage, larb, spicy meat salads, som tam, a salad of green papaya mixed up with tomatoes, shallots, peanuts, dried shrimp, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, lime, and chillies, kai yang (roast chicken) and khao niao (sticky rice), constitute a northern delicacy. North-eastern food is famous for its explosive salads and broiled minced meat dishes mined with miniature, high-voltage green chillies. Southern cuisine is even hotter with its fiery yellow curries. Of these food items, by far the best known internationally is tom yam kung, a delicious and aromatic broth flavoured with fish sauce, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, chillies, vegetables and shrimps, or king prawns, which can be found in every region. Dishes of foreign origin have also found a place in Thai food. Some of these go far back in history, like the egg-based Portuguese sweets and cakes which were introduced in the Ayutthaya period.
His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has advocated a sufficiency economy since 1974. It is a concept derived from extensive royal experience gained from visiting villages and seeing what works and what does not work, since the 1950s. After 1997, when facing a severe economic crisis, the term “Sufficiency Economy” was officially introduced. The basic principle of this philosophy is that in a village or sub-district there should be a reasonable amount of “sufficiency”. If villagers grow or produce surplus, they can sell that extra produce. Rather than having to sell it very far away; they can sell it in nearby places without having to pay high transport costs. Pilot projects were launched in many areas of Thailand to apply the principles of the “Sufficiency Economy” to farming for self-reliant agriculture. The main objective is to promote the “Sufficiency Economy” concept in farming. A target has been set for one million farming families to join the agriculture network under the Sufficiency Economy approach by 2013. It is worth noting that the philosophy of Sufficiency Economy is commended as a new theory for agriculture. The Sufficiency Economy approach, defined in the broad sense, means getting at the root causes of trouble, while helping to alleviate poverty, create new employment opportunities, and generating additional income by farmers. Sufficiency Economy is a philosophy that stresses the middle path comprising of three rings and two conditions. Within the Sufficiency Economy framework, the three rings represent the three principles of moderation, reasonableness and self-immunity. The knowledge and morality contents are two necessary conditions to achieve the three main principles. The knowledge condition requires thorough study of all available information and experience in order to make prudent decisions. The morality condition stresses integrity, trustworthiness, honesty and the hard-work of individuals. By practicing Sufficiency Economy, people would live in harmony and with security in a sustainable society and environment; and they would be able to tolerate and cope with all kinds of impacts of globalization.
Sufficiency Economy Villages: Eradicating poverty for sustainable development
Success in applying the Sufficiency Economy concept is evident from the pilot projects, including some economic ventures particularly in the agricultural sector, raising people’s awareness of the concept, placing more emphasis on teaching and instilling the concept at a young age whilst preserving indigenous culture. Exemplary Sufficiency Economy villages and activities are operational in locations such as Na Fai Sub district, Mueang Chaiyaphum District, Chaiyaphum Province, in the Ban Pa Miang Eco-tourism Village of Lampang Province, and the Sustainable Household Sufficiency Economy of Farmer Using Effective Indigenous Management Skill on His Rehabilitated Forest-Food Bank in Semiarid Zone of Waeng Noi District, Khon Kaen Province, to name just a few. The Sufficiency Economy approach is vital to the success of self-sustaining villages especially in remote areas. Regarding urban life, the focus is on Bangkok, whose metropolitan area covers 1,568 square kilometres on both sides of the Chao Phraya River. The surrounding area with nearby provinces comprises plains and estuaries bordering the Bight of Bangkok, about 30 km south of the city centre which lies about two metres above sea level with an area of 7,761.50 km². The urban sprawl of the Greater Bangkok region extends beyond the borders of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area, encompassing the neighbouring provinces of Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Pathum Thani, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Sakhon. Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, derives its name from either Bang Kok, kok, being the Thai name for the Java plum (makok), one of several trees bearing olive-like fruits; or Bang Koh, koh meaning “island,” a reference to the area’s landscape which is dissected by rivers and canals. The full ceremonial name of the city given by King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke, and later edited by King Mongkut, is: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. It translates roughly as “The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the
Bangkok : “City of Angels”
happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarm”. The full name is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest place name. Its Thai name in brief is Krung Thep. Since its founding as the capital city in 1782, Bangkok has grown to become an important political, social and economic centre of Southeast Asia. Its influence in the arts, politics, fashion, education and entertainment as well as its role as a business, financial and cultural centre has made Bangkok a global city. The city has a registered population of 5,710,883 (as of 31 December 2008), excluding a great number of unregistered people. Bangkok is one of the country’s two special administrative areas, the other being Pattaya, where citizens elect their governor or mayor, unlike in the 75 provinces (changwat). In 2009, M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra won the gubernatorial election. Bangkok’s central business district includes Silom, Bangrak, Pinklao, Sathon, Phra Ram 2, Phetchaburi, Phra Nakhon, Pathumwan, Chatuchak, and Phra Ram 3. As the city expands on the outskirts, the inner city has nowhere to grow but vertically. It has some 1,000 skyscrapers and ranks 17th as the world’s tallest city. Bangkok’s north and eastern areas are primarily residential areas. The inner city often has small apartments and low-rises for poor immigrants. The west of Bangkok, Thon Buri, is another growing area. Suvarnabhumi Airport in the east has further pushed the eastern expansion of the city.
The city is home to all major domestic and foreign companies as well as government ministries and most of the country’s leading education, sporting, and cultural facilities. Most imports and exports are transported via Bangkok, the hub of Thailand’s aviation, railroad and communication networks. Bangkok acts as a magnet for people from all parts of the country who come to be educated at its schools, colleges, and universities, to find employment, or simply to see its monuments and enjoy a variety of entertainment. Most Bangkokians have to face the stresses of city life and have a limited amount of leisure time even though Bangkok is abundant in leisure facilities. Sporting events draw large crowds, whether they are of purely local interest or involve foreign footballers, boxers, or gymnasts. Many museums, art galleries, and a cultural centre serve to instruct as well as relax. There are dozens of modern cinemas screening Thai and Western movies. Numerous restaurants and clubs offer delicious Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Western food of the highest international standard. Several amusement parks are located on Bangkok’s outskirts, with carousels, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, shooting galleries, and ice cream stalls. Lumpini Park, in the heart of the city, is crowded on weekends with footballers and strollers, as well as joggers and others in search of physical fitness. Chatuchak Park to the north of the city is the site of the famous Weekend Market featuring several acres of stalls selling a remarkable assortment of goods. Bangkok’s Old City, covering Bang Lamphu to the north and Thon Buri to the west, is full of amazing sights, such as the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) and other ancient temples, which are major tourist attractions.
Leisure in the City
Bangkok boasts some of the most varied nightlife in the Orient. Visiting ballet, operatic and folk dance troupes from Europe, the U.S., and various Asian countries are frequent visitors, and there are frequent international film festivals. Patrons of nightclubs and supper clubs, many of them in the city’s leading hotels, are entertained by international as well as local performers. Discotheques with the latest gadgetry flash and throb to the incessant beat of music played at top volume. Some people say that Paris is the city of lights, while Bangkok is the city of sleepless nights!
Buddhism is at the heart of the Thai perspective of life, shaping the foundation for most people’s state of mind in cities as well as in villages. In the village, the wat is the core of social and religious life. While urban surroundings may rob many monasteries of the tranquil atmosphere that characterises their upcountry counterparts, monks continue to practice their vocation undeterred by the noise outside. Meanwhile, Bangkok residents go there to pray and meditate. Astrology also retains its ancient influence by determining auspicious dates for major engagements. Buddhist monks, Brahmans and professional astrologers all cast horoscopes recommending the day and time to embark on a trip, or to purchase land, or start a new business, or open a shop. In truth, few couples would agree to be married without first determining the suitability of their union, and the most auspicious day and minute for the ceremony. Many Thais fear that change at too rapid a pace, or modernisation directed towards Western lifestyles, introduced into the country by various ways and means, is eroding the country’s traditional values that will overshadow Buddhist teachings. But, in spite of these concerns, Buddhism continues to play a dominant role in the national psyche.
...Our nation has maintained independence, unique language, art, and cultural traditions for centuries. Our ancestors have devoted and sacrificed their life and force, both physical and spiritual, to save and protect all these good old assets. It is therefore most important for us to permanently preserve and sustain them as our cultural heritage for the next generations...” Royal speech by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej given at the Opening Ceremony of the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, Sukhothai Province, January 25, 1964. Throughout time, art and culture have reflected Thai identity and ways of life intricately woven in harmony with rich diversity of natural and environmental settings, apparent in the invention of regionally distinctive arts and crafts. It should be highlighted that Thai art and culture have continued to receive close attention and gracious support from the royal institution, especially from Their Majesties the King and Queen of Thailand who have always been interested in the promotion, conservation and preservation of cultural heritage for the benefit of all Thai people in and outside the kingdom. The royal barge procession is a ceremonial manoeuvre of the royal barge fleet for royal or religious events such as a coronation or Kathin robe presentation. The ceremonial royal barge procession originated during the Ayutthaya period, performed by the King travelling in the royal barge procession on the occasions of Asayucha in the eleventh lunar month and of Chong Priang in the twelfth lunar month. The King’s participation in the royal barge processions at events such as the coronation and the Kathin robe presentation continued in the Rattanakosin Era. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej revived the procession in performing the royal Kathin, in 1959, for which he ordered the construction of new
Royal Barge Procession
barges over the years such as Ekachai Hoen Hao, Ekachai Lao Thong, Krabi Prap Mueang Man, Krut Hoen Het, Thong Khwan Fa, Thong Babin and the Narai Song Suban HM Rama IX. Many royal barge processions have since been organised for important occasions in His Majesty’s reign. The royal barge procession is a unique cultural heritage offering exquisite craftsmanship, classic poetry for the chanted boat songs, and the ancient system of barge formation on religious events such as the coronation or Kathin robe presentation.
Thai cultural heritage represents a unique amalgamation of the different ways of life, beliefs and wisdom of many ethnic groups in Suvarnabhumi. Proud of their art and cultural identities, created by their forefathers and handed down through various ages, Thai people take care to preserve and polish these cultural gems. The rich heritage of Thai art, culture, and other kinds of knowledge, is a result of continuous preservation efforts to ensure that later generations can always understand and appreciate the value of being Thai. Tracing the cultural traits of present-day Thailand leads back to archaeological evidence of the earliest human occupation, dating to approximately 60,000 - 40,000 years ago. A more complex prehistoric subsistence pattern existed as long as 4,300 years ago. People settled in different ecological habitats, colonised such previously unoccupied areas as coastal plains, mineralrich uplands, and swampy lowlands. Finds include chipped and polished stone tools, ceramic vessels, and human burials. Early metallurgy, bronze and iron, signifies the origins of agriculture. Trade led to the development of large settlements, and their number increased between 500 BC and AD 500, and small state-level societies developed. Inscriptions dating to the first millennium AD mention the name “Suvarnabhumi” which means “The Land of Gold”. Early historical cultures are known by the names of Dvaravati, Srivijaya, and Lop Buri. Dvaravati town plans are oval or circular, most of them moated and walled, with such monuments and artefacts as monastic buildings, Buddha images, religious objects and household utensils.
Like Dvaravati culture, Srivijaya art and culture were strongly influenced by the Gupta, Post-Gupta, and PalaSena Indian art styles, as evident from architectural and material remains, among them a large number of objects related to Mahayana Buddhism. Lop Buri culture, also known as Khmer style, incorporated both Hindu and Mahayana Buddhism, spread across present-day Thailand’s lower northeast and east. In the Suphan Buri River Basin, Suvarnabhumi culture grew out of Dvaravati culture; it is famous for its production of ceramic storage jars. The powerful maritime trading centre of Nakhon Si Thammarat with its Mahayana Buddhist culture had twelve vassal states based at ports along the Malay Peninsula. Lan Na was the most powerful and important northern Thai state which received a Hinayana Buddhist tradition from Pegu, an ancient neighbouring kingdom, and was also culturally influenced by Sukhothai culture. Sukhothai art and culture were influenced by a variety of artistic styles from other ancient kingdoms including India, Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Srivijaya, and Lan Na. An abundance of natural resources and strategic locations was a key factor in the social, cultural, and economic success and stability of the Ayutthaya Kingdom over the course of four centuries (1350-1767), making its capital Ayutthaya one of the largest and wealthiest cities in Asia. Its location on an island surrounded by the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak, Lopburi, and Noi rivers was important in several ways. First, the rivers and their flood plains served as a natural barrier. Secondly, fertile deltas formed by alluvial deposits brought by the rivers made the area ideal for cultivation. Thirdly, the rivers were navigable for the transportation of raw products. This turned Ayutthaya into a major trade and cultural centre where people and products from various regions would meet. Ayutthaya was not far from the Gulf of Siam, therefore, it was the gateway to the outside world, welcoming international traders and visitors. Upon the destruction of the city of Ayutthaya, Thon Buri, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, became the new capital of the kingdom. The relocation of the capital to the river’s east bank signified the birth of the Rattanakosin Kingdom with its capital “Krungthep Mahanakhon” or “Bangkok”. As Western culture gradually entered the Kingdom, and an intensive educational development program provided western knowledge, the country was modernised.
Despite considerable linguistic and ethnic diversity, people in Thailand are closely related culturally and socially; they are descendants of the same ancestors. There are approximately 60 ethnic groups that can be distinguished by five major linguistic groups: Austro-Asiatic, Tai-Kadai, Sino-Tibetan, Austronesia or Malayo-Polynesian, and Hmong-Mien. The Austro-Asiatic group includes Mon, Khmer, Kui, Khamu (Kha), Sakai, Semang, Chong, Khmer, Mon, Lua (Htin), Palaung, Chaobon, Mlabri, and So. The Tai-Kadai group comprises the majority ethnic groups (approximately 94%), including Tai Yai, Tai Lue, Tai Khoen, Tai Yor, Tai Mao, Phuan, Yoy, Phu Tai, Tai Dam, Tai Yuan, Lao, Lao Ngaew, Saek, and Lao Krang. The Sino-Tibetan group is a collection of ethnic groups mainly in the north and west, including the Karen (or Kariang), the Lisu (or Lisaw), the Akha (or Ekaw), and Haw. The Austronesia or Malayo–Polynesian groups are found in southern Thailand, where the Moklen are an example. The Hmong-Mien group includes the Hmong (or Meo) and Yao (or Mien). Thai people have long had their own languages and scripts. Southeast Asian languages are diverse and spread over different geographical settings. The first Thai inscription of King Ramkhamhaeng of the Sukhothai Kingdom is dated 1283. Genuine Thai words are mostly monosyllabic, while multisyllabic words of Thai are often the results of lenition, assimilation or syllable addition. They do not make use of the consonant cancellation mark (thanthakhat), rarely use consonant clusters, and always use the simplest form of alphabets as ending consonants. They make use
Ethnic Groups by Linguistic Grouping
Well endowed with archaeological sites and historic monuments, since 1991, two historical parks and, since 1992, one archaeological site have been registered on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. The Sukhothai - Si Satchanalai - Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park comprises three major locations: the Sukhothai Historical Park with the heart of old Sukhothai that existed between 13th to 15th century; the Si Satchanalai Historical Park, a sister city of Sukhothai, and the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park with its expansive forest monasteries that were contemporary with Sukhothai monuments. The Ayutthaya Historical Park preserves the capital area, a major centre of arts and culture for over four centuries. The Ban Chiang Archaeological Site, renowned as Southeast Asia’s prime prehistoric site, is also one of the world’s most important prehistoric communities. Evidence of settlements and cultures at Ban Chiang dates back 5,000 years.
World Cultural Heritage Sites
of specific pitches, even when no tone mark is given. Syntactic function is determined by the word’s position in a sentence; hence words juxtaposed differently have different meanings. Of the three forms of the “ai” diphthong, Thai words use only the explicit single stroke forms and never the a-i combination. The King Ramkhamhaeng Inscription is engraved on a 35.5×35.5×114.5 cm. monolith whose four sides are covered with Sukhothai period Thai script. Sides one and two each contain 35 lines of text, while sides three and four each contain 27 lines of text. When King Rama IV was still a monk, on a pilgrimage through the ruins of old Sukhothai city the prince-monk found the inscription, now housed in the National Museum. The inscribed alphabets, believed to be King Ramkhamhaeng’s invention, are distinct from other alphabets from the same period. The texts contain King Ramkhamhaeng’s biography and descriptions of Sukhothai — its geography, administration, society, customs and faith. UNESCO added the King Ramkhamhaeng Inscription to the Memory of the World Register in 2003. Also recognised as such treasure are the Epigraphic Archives of Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklaram (Wat Pho) engraved on marble plates – more than 1,360 in eight categories, namely, Buddhism, literature, directories, tradition, history of Wat Pho, proverbs, hygiene and medicine – at the order of King Rama III. It could be said that Wat Pho was the first university in Thailand.
Distinguished Thai personalities celebrated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
In chronological order of distinction by UNESCO, the learned personages are: Prince Damrong Rajanubhab commemorated as archaeologist; King Rama VI commemorated as benefactor; Phraya Anuman Rajadhon commemorated as scholar in cultural studies; Major General Prince Naradhip Bongsprabandh commemorated as eminent diplomat; Prince of Songkhla, commemorated as pioneer in the development of medical and public health services; H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej as initiator of improvements of the lives of all Thais; Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother, commemorated for devotion to improving the lives of Thai people; Professor Dr. Pridi Banomyong commemorated as Head of the Free Thai Movement, a resistance movement against Japanese occupation of Thailand during World War II; King Rama V commemorated for having brought unprecedented progress to Thailand; Mom Luang Pin Malakul commemorated as educator and founder of Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO); and Kulap Saipradit (Sri Burapha) commemorated as author whose thinking influenced the development of political concepts.
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Three categories of traditions are discernible, all encapsulating codes of conduct and symbolising elements of national identity. Rituals (khanop prapheni), flexible and adjustable within limits, mark important milestones in life, hence rites de passage, including birth, ordination, weddings, death, as well as house-blessing, paying homage to teachers, or the inauguration of festivities. Conventions (thamniam prapheni) guide social graces such as walking, standing, sitting and lying, as well as everyday life etiquettes such as paying respect, greeting, encountering senior persons, speaking, dressing, and eating. Two gestures are deemed essential. Krap is the gesture of respect towards a person of high status performed sitting down with hands pressed together, fingertips touching, raising to one’s forehead, bending one’s head down to touch the ground. The krap towards elders is performed similarly, though with the side of the hands touching the ground once. A religious krap (benchang kha pradit) is done kneeling, with one’s palms and head touching the ground three times. As these are not prescriptive, non-compliance is not considered right or wrong, though deemed uncivilised behaviour. Customs (charit prapheni) define morality and obligations. Lack of compliance is tantamount to violating social norms and, hence, in some localities sanctioned as unbecoming towards or offending benefactors (phit heet), or else as going against tradition (phit phi). Wai is a gesture of respect used in day-to-day greetings by pressing hands together, fingertips touching, arms raised and bowing. Among the numerous events and practices common throughout the country, the following are deserving of a brief mention: Engagement (man) and wedding (taeng ngan) ceremonies evolve in stages meaning that consent ought to be established with proper decorum, auspicious dates determined, homage paid, a home be made ready, sponsors requested, guests invited, alms offered to monks, gifts exchanged, blessings received through sprinkling the couple with holy water, and festive celebrations held. Mutual assistance (long khaek, also known as kho raeng or au raeng) has been used to mobilise labour forces for tasks requiring speedy completion such as harvesting paddy, and for the execution of public works through local population groups. Death triggers an outpouring of sympathy, assistance and active participation in the last rites and funeral (tham sop) by numerous persons, even entire rural communities, engaged up to seven days and nights, in many instances. In some locations of the central and eastern regions, particular traditions have been upheld such as a rice collection (kong khao) ritual, a soothing the rice goddess (tham khwan khao) ritual, ancestral or house spirit offering rituals, or various spirit communication rituals.
Ritual practices reflect adaptation to nature and environment in harmony and balance resulting in a simple pattern of life. With an environment suitable for settlement and subsistence, as well as abundant natural resources, diverse cultural groups formed in major river valleys. Rivers are not only natural resources, but they also serve as major means of transportation, food sources, sources of origins of Thai art and culture, water-related traditions and customs. Moreover, owing to the southwest monsoon and the northeast monsoon, the location of Thailand has served as a junction where traders, navigators, sailors, religious missionaries and explorers landed. Contacts with foreigners influenced lifestyle, subsistence pattern, and worldview, particularly when Buddhism and other religions were introduced, resulting in spiritual diversity and a complex cultural milieu. The subsistence pattern of the past was partly underpinned by invention and developed wisdom, allowing the country to maintain its important role as a nation throughout history and preserve the Thai way of life. Thai culture has social, religious, economic, and temporal dimensions. Thai people have adopted and adapted foreign cultures into their own ways to meet their needs. The creation of various forms of art evolved as loyalty to the monarchs and as a symbol of faith in religion. However, the adoption of Western culture since the 19th century brought radical cultural and social changes. Some values, worldviews, and attitudes of modern Thai people can be summarised as below: They are greatly ego-oriented, but they accept others’ comments and value if they see that the comments are useful; therefore they always like to maintain interpersonal relationships. The ego-focus is the origin of individualism, with a deep sense of independence and avoidance of conflict. They like to keep silent for their own benefit. They are pleasure-loving. They pay significant attention to happiness, fun, and comfort. As a result, the concept of consumerism is prevalent and people prefer light duty. They struggle hard and try every effort to accumulate wealth and enjoy a good life. They believe in power and like to use power because they think power can help them gain more wealth, property, or servants. They pay respect and gratitude to elderly, experienced and knowledgeable persons. They are skilful and capable of many things. They are curious to learn more to build up their social status.
Way of Life * Value and Attitude * Worldview
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Countrywide festivities are New Year, 1st January, and Songkran, the traditional New Year celebration, both of which are national holidays, and Loy Krathong as well. Songkran is celebrated on Maha Songkran, when the sun moves from one completed cycle of the twelve zodiac signs into the
next, which mostly happens in April. For several decades, the date to celebrate Songkran has been fixed on 13 April, also Thailand’s National Family Day. The day starts with visits to temples to make merit, paying respect to ancestors, sprinkling scented water on Buddha images, and pouring scented water on one’s elders’ hands to obtain their blessing. The afternoon is the time for fun by splashing water. Birds and fish are released, and sand pagodas are built in the compounds of monasteries. Loy Krathong festival falls on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month, usually in November. Its celebration is associated with various objectives such venerating Ganga, the river goddess, worshipping the Buddha’s Footprint or the Buddha’s relics. Beautifully decorated vessels made from banana stems and leaves called krathong are floated, (loy), on rivers or other bodies of water, after having paid respect, repented or made wishes. Four categories are distinguishable. Events staged for economic reasons fall into the harvesting seasons, such as the Chiang Rai Lychee, Lam Phun Longan, Uttaradit Lansat, Chiang Mai Flower and Khon Kaen Silk festivals. Events combining folk rituals with religious beliefs are the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Procession, Barge Races at Nan, Phichit and Phitsanulok, Narathiwat Kolae Boat Race, Surin Elephant Shows, Bangkok Kite Contest, and the Nakhon Si Thammarat Tenth Lunar Month, Phuket and Trang Vegetarian, Chiang Mai Yi Peng, Sukhothai Candle, Nakhon Phanom Fireboat, and Yasothon Rocket festivals. Examples of historic relevance are the Kanchanaburi Bridge over the River Kwae Week and Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya World Heritage Sound and Light as well as Kamphaeng Phet Nop Phra Len Phleng festivals. Unique events include the Loei Phi Ta Khon, Nakhon Sawan Bun Kam Fa, Pathum Thani as well as Samut Prakan Lotus, and the Phuket, as well as Phang-nga, Hatched Turtle Release festivals.
Vernacular House Types by Regions
Diversity in topography, climatic conditions, economic mainstay and social norms resulted in a variation of housing style, as briefly described below.
Central Region House
Houses are built on raised stilts above the seasonal flood level to allow air to circulate during the hot season and prevent predators or thieves from entering. The space below is used to store tools, keep livestock, or convert into a workshop during the dry season. Very steep gables allow for fast rain water drainage, and wide eaves protect from rain or sunlight. The gable ends are curved for air cross-circulation and to prevent the roof from being blown off. A spacious veranda is the space where everyday life and communal activities take place during the flood season.
Given the cool climate, the interior is partitioned, and small windows allow little wind to enter. Side walls that incline outward from the base, to support the greatly extended eaves, add draught protection. Built on stilts, the area underneath is space reserved for water storage, “khan nam”, with jars and a dipper for use by the household and all passers-by. Barn and stable positioned just outside the eaves often have separate roofs. The kitchen is mostly near the bedroom accessible through a corridor. Exclusively in the upper Ping River valley, houses have gables with wide eaves topped by carved crosses called “kalae”. Owing to the vast expanse of the country’s largest region, its varied physical conditions and diversity of traditions, it is hardly possible to discern any ubiquitous characteristics. Mostly structures of a compound are detached units built on stilts, walled by wooden planks with small windows. The relatively flat-gable roofs – covered with tiles, wooden shingles or faek leaves – have wide and low-reaching eaves. Recently, traces of authentic architecture have become rare, leaving the housing culture at risk of oblivion.
Owing to the variation in physical conditions between the land facing the east coast and that facing the west coast, either by the seaside or in the interior, several types are distinguishable. Houses on the east side of the peninsula have tall-gable roofs. Fishermen’s dwellings are made with braided bamboo strips and thatched with palm leaves. Sturdier dwellings are wooden with tiled roofs. On the west side, there are both small huts and wooden houses. All are built close to the ground resting on foundation piles, with wide eaves for protection against rainstorms. Seaside houses are built on high stilts for space to serve as a boatshed. Muslims prefer houses on high stilts, traditionally with 4-to-6-sided hip roofs, rooms divided by folding partitions, walls with wooden lattice for ventilation and doorframes topped by decorated panels.
Southern Region Houses North-eastern Region House Northern Region House
Painting, sculpture, literature in prose and poetry, drama, music, design, theatre, opera, still photography and film production, folk art, handicrafts such as fabric weaving, silverwork or woodwork, and cuisine are based on traditional concepts and values. Contemporary creations are appreciated domestically, regionally and worldwide. They have altogether proven to be of economic value for providing employment opportunities for men and women with artistic talents and as sources of income. This is becoming ever more significant with a view to the building of a strong, creative economy. Traditional arts and crafts are currently recreated as produced by artists and artisans in various disciplines. Thai craftsmanship is highly appreciated in many countries because of its traditional and universal values as well as its distinctive designs. Under the Royal Patronage of Her Majesty the Queen, since 1986 the SUPPORT Foundation and Bangsai Arts and Crafts Centre have created new types of employment to improve income and to sustain arts and crafts nationwide. These include weaving, basketry, silverware and nielloware. The periodical exhibition “Arts of the Kingdom” is organised to commemorate Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, founder and patron of the SUPPORT Foundation. It first took place in 1989. The Mae Fah Luang Foundation, set up and placed originally under the patronage of Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother, and based in Doi Tung, northern Thailand, develops local people’s skills in the sustainable management of natural resources in place of growing opium poppies. It has been proclaimed by UNODC (United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime) as a model for the world’s sustainable development. The foundation produces and distributes various handicrafts for home decoration.
Contemporary Artistic Scenario – Creativity in Manifold Pursuits
Thai Fabric & Fashion
Each region in Thailand uses different techniques for dyeing and weaving, expressing people’s cultural identity. Thanks to the royal patronage of the late Princess Mother and Her Majesty the Queen, who promoted handicraft co-operatives, the art and craft of weaving tradition textiles have come alive again. Weavers from the North weave gold and
silver threads into complex brocaded designs. Tribal women living on highlands are skilful in producing colourful, embroidered cloths of cotton and hemp. North-eastern people are renowned for their skill in tying and dyeing cotton and silk yarns into traditional motifs and symbols before weaving the yarns into patterned fabric called mudmee. The South is also recognised for its gold brocades. Some communities in the central area weave their legendary designs by adding supplementary yarns into the weft.
The Designer Princess
Not solely a medium to publicise Thai art and culture worldwide, the film industry provides continuous and great economic value exporting films such as Plae Kao (1977), The Overture (2004) and The Tropical Malady (2004). Thailand has also provided shooting locations for Hollywood movies such as The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and The Beach (2000). In 2003, Prachya Pinkaeo released an outstanding film Ong-Bak (Muay Thai Warrior), which became popular worldwide for its depiction of traditional Thai martial art. Animation has become an important vehicle for presenting Thai cultural identity and Thai artistic expression. For example, Kan Kluay (2006), whose theme is the heroic action of King Naresuan the Great, facing the Crown Prince of Burma on a vicious black elephant in a critical battle in defence of Ayutthaya, reflects the relationship between human beings and elephants in a Thai ecosystem. Another animated film The Life of Buddha, divided into four parts, has been released in Thai, English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and German.
Film Production & Cinematography
Her Royal Highness Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, daughter of HRH Crown Prince Mahavajiralongkorn, was the first Thai designer invited by the fashion house of Balmain to display her spring and summer collection, which featured a blend of European and Thai Rattanakosin styles, at the 2008 Paris Fashion Week. Other well-known Thai designers include Pichitra Boonyarataphan with her “PICHITA” brand and Chamnan Pakdeesuk who presents his work under the brand “Fly Now”.
There are many types of performing arts, traditional as well as contemporary, at either governmental or private cultural centres. The national theatre was built for classical dance performances, especially khon, lakhon and likay. Thai classical music and Westernised Thai music (Pheng Thai Sakon), ballet and other shows are performed there regularly. The Cultural Centre of Thailand built to celebrate His Majesty the King’s 60th Birthday Anniversary, is an immensely popular venue for international cultural troupes, symphony orchestras, and Thai grand performances for the Thai and international audience of Bangkok. Sakorn Yangkhieosot, a National Artist of 1996, founded the Hun Lakorn Lek puppet troupe; the only remaining “Hun Lakorn Lek” puppet theatre, and winner of many national and international awards. The Nattayasala puppet performing group has received invitations to perform abroad many times and was awarded “The Best Performance Award” at the World Festival of Puppet Art held in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2006. Chalermkrung Royal Theatre is famous for khon and other contemporary arts such as music. Siam Niramit Theatre focuses on applied Thai performing arts with lavish, modern lighting and sound techniques. Patravadi Theatre is on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, where the annual Bangkok Fringe Festival is organised, presenting Thai performing arts in a contemporary style.
Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre (Joe Louis)
Museums – Galleries – Festivals – Exhibitions
The first public museum in Thailand was founded in 1874 by King Rama V. It was relocated to a palace formerly known as Wang Na, now known officially as the Bangkok National Museum. Government art museums, such as the National Art Gallery, Silpa Bhirasri National Museum, The Queen’s Gallery, and Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC), exhibit traditional and contemporary art works.
Traditional music is non-harmonic and has a melodic or linear progression. Western classical and popular music were welcomed in the Kingdom and the influential band of Suntaraporn combined Thai melodies with Western popular music which became known as Luk Krung. His Majesty King Bhumibol is an accomplished jazz musician and composer. Also, Their Royal Highnesses Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn Valailak are both outstanding musicians in their own rights. Other famous musicians and composers include Thanphuying M.L. Puangroi Abhaiwongse, Karnjanaphalin, Sa-nga Arampi, Payong Mukda, and Phaiboon Buttakhan. In an effort to revitalise classical Thai music, and make it appeal to the younger Thai as well as international audience, master musician Boonyong Ketkhong and his brilliant American student, Bruce Gaston, founded in 1983 the Fong Nam ensemble which was named after the first traditional song the group performed in public. Current, popular musicians and composers include Rear Admiral M.L. Assani Pramoj (National Artist 1994), Prasit Silpabanleng, Katetaran Leatpipat, Chiraphan Angsvanon, Sinnapa Sarasas and Danu Hantrakul. These artists endeavour to present an amalgamation of classical Thai and Western music. Thai professional symphony orchestras are the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra.
Contemporary Painting and Sculpture
From the reigns of King Rama IV to King Rama V, the influence of Western art began to merge into Thai traditional art through concept, form and techniques of creation. Examples are composition, dimension, light and shadow, and colour. Krua In Kong was the pioneering artist who got inspiration from Western printed material. The Western style of sculpture shed light on Thai art from the reign of King Rama IV onwards. Consequently, earlier sculptors of idealised Buddha images changed to heroic human form, with knowledge of human anatomy as in Western art. Examples of modern art are the works by twelve artists who created paintings, sculptures, designs of monuments, and installations – some among them working in more than one field and with mixed media. They are, in chronological order by their year of birth:
Silpa Bhirasri [Corrado Feroci] (1892-1962), whose monuments, secular themes and styles were adopted from the Western Impressionist, Postimpressionist and Cubist movements; Misiem Yipinsoi (1906-1988), whose works are based on people and things around her. Misiem’s unique sculptures are simple in form, with no details, rough texture, plain position and powerful movements; Fua Haripitak (1910-1993), a “Distinguished Artist in Painting” in the Impressionist and Expressionist styles and creator of sculptures, who was also bestowed the Magsaysay Award 1983 for community service; Chamrat Kietkong (1916-1966), well-known for his realistic and naturalistic portrait paintings; Sitthidet Saenghiran (1916-1957), sculptor who worked with Silpa Bhirasri to create some important statues in Thailand such as those of King Naresuan the Great at Suphan Buri and the statue of King Taksin the Great; he also crafted some of the bas-reliefs at the base of the Democracy Monument; Sanan Silakorn (1919-1986) whose important statues are those of Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthorn in Phuket, King Pinklao and HRH Prince Chandaburi Narunarth at the Ministry of Commerce; Paitoon Muangsomboon (1922-1999) whose works include life-like sculptures of animals and people such as an old monk, Professor Silpa Bhirasri, a calf, baby horse, and giraffe. His style distinguished him from other contemporary sculptors. Some of his creations were in the form of memorial monuments such as the initial mould for the monument of King Rama I; Khien Yimsiri (1922-1971), the “Best Artist for Sculpture” in 1953, whose style is a combination of conventional Thai and Western traditions; it reflects simple forms and free frames with powerful life; Tawee Nandakwang (1925-1991), whose oil paintings combine realistic expressions with surrealism such as his paintings of the Golden Mountain, a scene, pond, lotus, blue environment, and Hua Hin; Twelve artists are named below as markers in the broad, varied and rich contemporary scenario, with random emphasis on oil painting, watercolour painting, mural painting, woodblock printing, mixed media and sculpture, among many others. They, too, are called up in chronological order of the year of their birth:
Chalerm Nakeerak (1917) is a National Artist in Visual Art. He uses watercolours to paint scenes, still life, and portraits, which depict colours and shadows with sharp contrast. Beside this, he also creates some oil paintings using unique techniques to portray colours, shapes and proportions of people as well as facial expressions; Sawasdi Tantisuk (1925-deceased) a pioneer of modern art who created watercolour paintings of fishing villages and coastal areas with approaching storms; Angkarn Kalayanapong (1926) is considered one of the first modern artists to adapt traditional styles and themes, characterised by the fusion of the elegant, two-dimensional styles of Ayutthaya mural paintings with a surrealistic, dreamlike quality; Chalood Nimsamer (1929) is a very talented sculptor whose wide range of works includes painting, sculpting, printing, and mixed media. All the various types of visual arts he created were intended to reflect the core of Thai culture and society such as Lokutara at The Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre and Phra Boromasomparn at Hua Chiew Chaloemprakiat University; Chamruang Vichienkhet (1931) shows, through his visual art in both realistic and abstract styles, change and continuity with modern forms and philosophy of life; Prayat Pongdam (1934) whose works of wood prints including gecko, mother and baby bats, cats, nocturnal birds, dawn, and brother and sister, were matched with paintings depicting nature, atmosphere, rural spirits, beliefs, mystery and serenity; Pratuang Emjaroen (1935) is probably most famous for his social commentary, as epitomised by his huge and powerful canvas Dharma and Adharma; he creates art with inspiration from nature and rural life through composition of colours, light and shadow; Pichai Nirand (1936) applies traditional Thai arts to create contemporary crafts, rejecting the traditional mural style and making more selective choices of Buddhist imagery, appropriating religious objects and icons and reinterpreting their significance; Thawan Duchanee (1939) has tended to examine the spiritual tensions of modern life with his juxtaposition of religious icons with fantastical Boschlike characters and explicitly sexual images, interpretations of the Ramayana, the Jataka and the Tribhumi;
Kamol Tasananchalee (1944) strives to lead Thai art into the international arena. He has devoted himself to creating different forms of mixed media, using new types of materials to reflect the blend between Western and Eastern cultures. This technique has become internationally acclaimed; Nonthwat Chandhanaphalin (1946) explores the essence of art as well as the means of searching his inner self. The artist uses abstract ideas to create concrete forms to bring back beauteous nature through his sculptures. Most of his art products show simple forms, firm structures and plain texture with a philosophy of life; Preecha Thaothong (1948) uses natural light and shadow in his paintings to expressing the uniquely tranquil Thai character. All his works depend on light and shadow or golden colour. As of late, Preecha has begun to use glittering surfaces to convey an idea of being Thai. His works combine traditional Thai techniques with Western modes of painting, creating the artist’s own unique style.
Religions in Thailand
Thailand is a land where a variety of religions have been practiced with great tolerance. The followings are current major religions in Thailand:
Buddhism is the religion observed by the majority of the population in Thailand. Several lines of evidence suggests that it was introduced into the country approximately around the first century AD and flourished during the Dvaravati period (6th–11th century), and continues to the present. Recently, an animation film titled The Life of Buddha was produced divided into four parts: the coming of Buddha, the birth of Gautama Buddha, the Buddha’s enlightenment, and his teaching until the end of his life. The film is also available in English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and German languages.
Hinduism was introduced to the area of modern-day Thailand before Buddhism by Indian merchants and priests, as evidenced by iconographic items found in southern Thailand dating between the 1st and the 6th century. In addition, Hindu temples and monuments are also found scattered across the country. Hindu influences can be found in almost all of forms of Thai art including painting, sculpture, literature, etc.
Christianity was introduced to Thailand by Portuguese missionaries, who were the first Europeans to enter the Kingdom of Ayudhya in 1511. After that there were more Christian missionaries continuing to visit the kingdom, and
Christianity Hinduism Buddhism
they also introduced Western technology and knowledge into Thai society, including printing, astronomy, medical science, and an educational system among others.
According to archaeological evidence found in southern Thailand, Islam was introduced to Thailand by Arab merchants around the first century. During the Ayutthaya period, Islam was well established in the kingdom. Nowadays the majority of Muslim communities in Thailand are concentrated in the border provinces of southern Thailand and in the lower Chao Phraya river basin.
Indians from Punjab province introduced Sikhism into Thailand in the reign of King Rama V. Most of Sikh families specialise in commerce, and their settlements are congregated in the Pahurat area of Bangkok.
Thailand is home to people of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, who live their unique lifestyles and follow their own traditions. Living in a multicultural society, Thai people have learned how to live among diversity and what unites them as Thais is their faith and respect of the monarchy; kings have been patrons of their religions. Kings have also been a spiritual pillar for Thai people of all faiths, making Thailand a society where diverse beliefs and cultures have been practiced peacefully and happily.
As culture has a considerable value and meaning, and its religious dimensions are especially valued, the majority of Thailand’s population, having adopted Buddhism, reason that it can help purify the mind. Belief in karma helps mitigate tension in society where there are social differences. The concept of devaraja or divine kingship adopted from Hinduism and the phuttaraja or Buddhist kingship have played a vital role in state stability for kings were divine beings and also represented a form of Bodhisattva who protected their people with mercy.
Buddhists believe in karma (the belief that actions today affect not only this life, but the next life) and superstition. They use the concept of karma to explain social differences.
Food offering for monks (Tham Bun Tak Bat) is the most convenient way to make merit for followers of Buddhism. Monks make their rounds every morning. Merit makers wait in front of their homes with bowls of cooked rice and all kinds of food, flowers, joss-sticks and candles. Passing monks, invited to stop by, open their bowls to receive rice and food. Other accessories are put on the flipped-up bowl cover. With no required number of
Relations with Indigenous Beliefs and Other Religions
monks or quantity of food to offer, this tradition is truly a convenient way to make merit for everyone. House warming (Khuen Ban Mai) is a popular tradition among Thais. The “new house” in this context also includes a new office. The purpose of this ceremony is to secure happiness, prosperity and to be free from trouble or danger. Generally, an auspicious date and time is determined, followed by an invitation to monks. On the day, the monks will perform chanting and receive food and other offerings. The ceremony concludes with the monk’s blessing before a feast for all guests. Ordination (Buat Nak). Every Thai man reaching twenty years of age is expected to ordain as a Buddhist monk for a certain period to learn compassion and conscience. One or two weeks before ordination day, the man and his parents will visit the abbot of the temple of choice to announce their wish. The abbot then assigns a monk to instruct the man on Khan Nak-Pali conversation needed for ordination. A day or two before the event, the man will visit his ordination master to confirm his appointment and finalise other arrangements. The day before ordination the monk-to-be will have his head shaved and dress in white, becoming a Nak (Naga). The dressing ceremony is usually followed by listening to a Tham Khwan Nak (soothing the spirit) chant. On the ordination day, the Nak gets taken to the temple in a procession which circles the temple three times before entering the ordination hall. The formal Buddhist ordination ceremony then begins. There are local traditions in all parts of the country, each with its own identity. The North-eastern traditions strictly follow the Hit Sipsong Khong Sipsi principle. Hit Sip Song is the twelve merit-making customs for the twelve lunar months. For each lunar month: the first has Ngan Bun Khao Kam; the second has Ngan Bun Khun Lan; the third has Ngan Bun Khao Chi; the fourth has Ngan Bun Phra Wet; the fifth has Ngan Bun Song Nam or Song Kran; the sixth has Ngan Bun Bang Fai; the seventh has Ngan Bun Sam Ha; the eighth has Ngan Bun Khao Phansa; the ninth has Ngan Bun Khao Pradap Din; the tenth has Ngan Bun Khao Sak or Kraya Sat; the eleventh has Ngan Bun Ok Phansa; the twelfth has Ngan Bun Kathin. Khong Sip Si and Hit Ban Khong Mueang mean the 14 principles, e.g., washing one’s feet before entering a house, offering food to monks in the morning, avoiding stepping on a monk’s shadow, paying respect to parents, worshiping the Buddha and listening to the Buddha’s teachings, and so forth. Khong Mueang are laws by which rulers abide to ensure administrative justice.
Local Traditions of the North-east
Local Traditions of the South
Distinctive traditions are often religious, such as Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Relic Robes Procession (Hae Pha Khuen That) and the tenth lunar month ritual (Sat Duean Sip); Phatthalung’s Drum and Buddha Towing ritual (Khaeng Phon Lak Phra); the Boat Floating ritual of Satun’s Li Pe islanders and many other rites in Phuket, Phang-nga and Krabi provinces. Ethnically there are many groups of people from different cultural background in the South. The famous festivals that attract most tourists are Sart Festival and Hae Pha Khuen That, which take place in Nakhon Si Thammarat in the tenth month. In October, Surat Thani arranges Chak Phra festival; its aim is to memorise the event when Lord Buddha paid a visit to his mother in Tavatimsa Heaven. There is an ethnic group called Sea Gypsies in the provinces of Satun, Phuket, Phang-nga and Krabi. This indigenous group performs a boatfloating ceremony twice a year. Poi Luang is one of the most important traditions of the northern region, literally “a grand celebration”. Poi Luang are temple celebrations for a new monk’s quarters, a new communal hall, or a newly renovated pagoda, for example. Moreover, there are the boys’ ordinations — Poi Sang Long or Buat Luk Kaeo — tradition of the Shan ethnic group of Mae Hong Son and Tan Kuai Salak, one of the most popular ways for northern Buddhists to make offerings to the monks. Festivals and traditional celebrations are related. Festivals are specifically held at times of religious, spiritual or seasonal significance. Activities during festivals may be merit making or celebratory. Religious festivals include Ubon Ratchathani’s Candle Procession, Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Festival of the Tenth lunar month, Vegetarian Festivals of Phuket and Trang and so
Southern Region Festivals
Local Traditions of the North
forth. The Lent Candle Procession festival is held during the three-month Buddhist Rainy Season Retreat, in Thailand known as phansa or vassa, which coincides with the rainy season, monks cannot leave their temples for overnight visits. The Buddha forbade travelling to prevent monks from treading on newly cultivated grounds. Accordingly, Lent is the time for merit-making at temples, starting by offering of candles on the first day of Lent, the new moon day of the eighth lunar month. Beautifully decorated candles, made very large to last the season, are transported to the temples in festive processions.
ducation is the most potent mechanism for the advancement of human beings and is fundamental to human rights. Thailand’s Constitution ensures that all people will have both the rights and duties to receive education and training as well as academic freedom. The transformation of the education system through a strategy based on enhancing moral and ethical values, together with a core programme of enhancing quality, is underpinned by His Majesty’s Philosophy of the Sufficiency Economy that promotes moderation and harmony amongst local communities in order to meet their needs in a sustainable manner. A free, basic education of twelve years is currently guaranteed by the Constitution, and a minimum of nine years’ school attendance is mandatory. The education reform also ensures that all boys and girls, regardless of their economic, ethnic, social and cultural backgrounds, shall have access to and complete free and compulsory education of good quality. Issues of quality, equity and sustainability drive the educational development in all areas of policy and planning. The role of the private sector in the provision of education at all levels is explicitly emphasised.
All types of education can be provided by educational institutions as well as learning centres. Approaches to education are classified as formal, non-formal, and informal. The objective of learning is the holistic development of learners in four aspects: physical, intellectual, social capacity, and emotional as well as mental development. 1.1 Formal Education Formal education services are offered at both basic and higher education levels and in both general and vocational streams. These services are provided in various formats for several target groups, including: (1) Mainstream education for children and young people in regular schools; (2) Special education for students with disabilities at special schools, special centres and inclusive schools; and welfare education for disadvantaged students at Welfare Schools and Border Patrol Police Schools; (3) Education for monks at several temples; (4) Specialised education through specific agencies other than the Ministry of Education; and, (5) International education in languages other than Thai (generally English) as the medium of instruction. (A) Mainstream Education for Children in Regular Schools Mainstream education is provided for students in regular schools in both general and vocational streams. Formal, general education is provided at all levels, from pre-primary to higher education, while the formal vocational education is provided only at some levels, from upper secondary to higher education. The 2003 curriculum for pre-primary education focuses on preparing children aged three to five in terms of their physical, intellectual, emotional/ mental and social readiness. The 2001 curriculum for basic education covers twelve years (Grades 1-12), and is divided into four, three-year stages, grouped into eight subject areas: Thai language; mathematics; science; social studies and religion and culture; health and physical education; arts; career and technology-related education; and foreign languages. The teaching and learning of English and increasingly Chinese has been given priority in Thailand’s drive towards a learning society. Activities that focus on responding to the learner’s specific interests are also included. In the general stream of basic education, career and technology-related
1. Types of Education
education is offered at both the primary and secondary levels to provide work experience and basic knowledge for career preparation and technological applications. Formal technical and vocational education and training (TVET), is conducted at three levels: upper secondary, leading to the lower certificate of vocational education; post-secondary, leading to a diploma or the associate’s degree in vocational education; and at university level, leading to an academic degree. The curriculum covers nine fields, comprising 1) trade and industry, 2) commerce/business administration, 3) arts, 4) home economics, 5) agriculture, 6) fisheries, 7) tourism, 8) textiles, and 9) ICTs. With an emphasis on competency building to meet specified standards of knowledge, skills, attitudes and personal attributes required for future careers, TVET provide hands-on training with industry partners for at least one semester. To expand opportunities for students, a number of entrepreneurs and educational institutions are offering dual-vocational training (DVT) programmes, where students engage in on-the-job training for half of their total study period. Technical and vocational education and training is provided by public and private educational institutions, enterprises, or those organised through cooperation between educational institutions and enterprises. In summary, vocational education is provided through three programmes: the normal programme (theoretical knowledge in schools), the dual-vocational training (DVT) programmes, which offer a mix of on-the-job training in selected workplaces and theoretical knowledge in schools, and the credit accumulative programme. In addition, special vocational education is offered in Sports Schools under the supervision of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, and in Dramatic Arts and Fine Arts Colleges under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture. (B) Special Education for Children with Special Education Needs Inclusive education, or the provision of education for disadvantaged students and students with disabilities at regular schools, is included in the mainstream education. Those who are not able to study at regular schools attend special schools for children with special education needs. In line with the goals of UNESCO’s “Education for All” (EFA) initiative and the 1999 National Education Act, greater attention has been focused on special education. Efforts are also geared to the development of education for the disadvantaged, the disabled and the gifted. The Ministry of Education has announced criteria and procedures for providing facilities, media, services and other forms of educational aid, as well as for budget allocations in these areas.
Special Education for Disadvantaged Students Several government agencies are providing education for those who are socially and/or culturally disadvantaged. These include the Ministry of Education, the Border Patrol Police Bureau and Department of Social Development and Public Welfare. In addition, non-governmental organisations, such as the Rajprachasamasai Foundation under Royal Patronage of His Majesty the King, and the Foundation for Children, play a very important role in providing education for disadvantaged children. The inclusive education policy allows most disadvantaged students to study at regular public schools, while others study at Welfare Schools or Border Patrol Police Schools. The Welfare Schools offer education for disadvantaged students who are deprived of the opportunity to attend regular schools. Free education, food, clothing, equipment, textbooks and other necessities are provided, in most cases also including accommodation. Special vocational training relevant for future employment in the locality of a particular school is usually offered. The Office of the Basic Education Commission distinguishes ten categories of disadvantaged children as follows: (1) Children forced to enter the labour market; (2) Children who are sex workers; (3) Deserted children; (4) Children at Observation and Protection Centres; (5) Street children; (6) Children affected by HIV/AIDS; (7) Children of ethnic minorities; (8) Physically abused children; (9) Impoverished children; and (10) Children affected by narcotic drugs. Special Education for Students with Disabilities People with disabilities are entitled to receive all levels of education, according to their special needs owing to their impairment falling into anyone of the following nine groups: (1) Hearing impairments; (2) Mental impairment; (3) Visual impairments, (4) Physical impairments or health-related impairments; (5) Learning disabilities (LD); (6) Autism; (7) Emotional and behavioural disorders; (8) Speech and language disorders; and (9) Multiple disabilities. Formal education for students with disabilities is provided by regular schools as well as special schools.
Regular Schools are obliged to accept children with disabilities in their inclusive education programme. These schools are assisted by Special Centres and Special Schools in terms of teachers, training, materials and facilities and coordination with concerned agencies; Special Schools are essential for students with disabilities who need accommodation. Education for students with disabilities focuses on the potential of each student in line with the Individualised Education Programme. Special Schools are classified into four types: (1) Special Schools for those with Mental Impairments; (2) Special Schools for those with Hearing Impairments; (3) Special Schools for those with Visual Impairments and (4) Special Schools for those with Physical Impairments. Special Education for Gifted and Talented Students Education for specially gifted persons is provided in appropriate forms in accordance with their competencies through suitable curricula. Special schools, special classes, specific curricula, special activities, tuition sessions were set up, and the teaching-learning process, complete with assessment procedures, have been revised for gifted persons in various fields, including language, science and mathematics, sports and music. National and international competitions are conducted by several public and private agencies, including 1) The Promotion of Academic Olympiads and Development of Science Education Foundation under the Patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana Krom Luang Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra; 2) The Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST); and 3) the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA). They conduct special activities, tuition sessions and competitions for gifted persons, such as the Academic Olympiad Camps, science camps, and competitions in science or mathematics. Special programmes, including the Advanced Placement Programme, are organised to allow secondary students to take courses delivered for first-year university students and receive credits which can be accumulated with a view to further studies at the bachelor degree level. Specific curricula, centres and research and development (R&D) institutes for gifted persons have been set up by some universities. Scholarships for studies in Thailand and foreign countries are provided, including the “Development and Promotion of the Scientific and Technologically Talented Project”; the “National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) Project”; the “Academic Olympiads Project”; and other scholarships offered by several public and private agencies.
1.2 Non-Formal Education Lifelong education integrates formal, non-formal, and informal education. Non-formal education services have expanded significantly to secondary and vocational levels. Strategies include developing a range of life skills through distance learning, establishing workplace and community learning centres, and promoting the joint sharing of resources with the formal school sector. Provided by the Office of Non-formal and Informal Education and other public and private bodies, non-formal and informal education services are offered to various target groups through traditional methods as well as through e-Book, eLibrary and e-Learning. The services primarily target those outside the school system, i.e. infants and pre-school children, members of the schoolage population who have missed out on formal schooling, and the above-school-age population. Currently, such services have been expanded to cover specific target groups, including prison inmates, unskilled labour, disabled, conscripts, agriculturists, the elderly, hill tribe people, local leaders, slum dwellers, Thai Muslims, religious practitioners, those having no opportunity to further their studies in formal schooling after compulsory education, Thai people in foreign countries, and other special groups, as well as students in the formal school system. The three main types of non-formal technical and vocational training programmes are: 1) Non-Formal Programme for Certificate in Vocational Education; 2) Short-Course Vocational Training Programme; and 3) Interest Group Programme. Altogether 76 special centres in 76 provinces render services which they also extend to inclusive schools, private homes and hospitals. These centres organise meetings and seminars to provide knowledge for parents of the disabled and relevant agencies, conduct research, and formulate curricula for short-term training of the disabled. Non-formal education is also specially arranged for children with disabilities. Moreover, some hospitals organise classes for children with disabilities caused by chronic ailments. 1.3 Informal Education The vision of developing a learning society recognises the need to promote learning outside the formal space of the classroom. Support for informal learning is reinforced by a network of libraries nationwide, at district and provincial levels, together with a network of science museums. Educational television and radio programmes providing direct teaching, as
well as instruction on enrichment activities, are broadcast nationwide through seven satellite transmitted channels sourcing programmes from the Royally Sponsored Project and the Ministry of Education. At present, several ministries are involved in providing informal education to promote lifelong learning through information dissemination, educational activities, or academic and professional programmes for different target groups relating to the responsibilities of each organisation. Efforts have been made to enable individuals to learn at all times and in all places through several sources, including public libraries, museums, art galleries, zoological gardens, public parks, botanical gardens, science and technology parks, sports and recreation centres, national parks, and other sources of learning. Relevant agencies and educational institutions are therefore working to create links between formal, non-formal and informal education systems. It is expected that access to education will be increased through the transfer of learning outcomes to and from all types of education. In so doing, credits can be accumulated and transferred from the same or different educational institutions and within the same type or between different types of educational approaches and learning, including non-formal or informal education, vocational training and work experience. A more flexible educational system will help increase access to and create links between all types of education. This will not only attract future generations of Thai people toward lifelong learning but also eventually lead to a learning and knowledge-based society and economy.
2. Levels of Education
2.1 Basic Education Twelve-year basic education in Thailand is divided into six years of primary schooling (Prathom 1 to 6), followed by three years of lower secondary (Mattayom 1 to 3) and three years of upper secondary schooling (Mattayom 4 to 6). In 2003, compulsory education was extended to nine years. Eight core subjects form the National Curriculum, as follows: Thai language, Mathematics, Science, Social studies and religion and culture, Health and physical education, Arts, Careers and technology, and Foreign languages. Flexibility is built into the curriculum in order to integrate local wisdom and culture, so that it is consistent with set learning standards in each of the core subject groups. The promotion of thinking skills, self-learning strategies and moral development is at the heart of teaching and learning in the Thai National Curriculum.
2.2. Higher Education Higher education is predominantly provided by universities and colleges. The two distinct levels of educational attainment are the diploma level and graduate degrees. Higher education focuses on promoting a knowledgebased society by trying to create a new body of knowledge and transfer it to the community, strengthening R&D activities, promoting lifelong learning, and utilising ICT in continuing education programmes. At present, there are 78 public higher education institutions, 69 private higher education institutions, and 19 community colleges. Each public university or institute has its own Act empowering the University Council to function as its governing body. Higher education at the diploma and degree levels is provided by universities, educational institutions, colleges, community colleges, and other types of institutions. A) Diploma Level Higher education at the diploma level requires two years of study. It is offered by Rajabhat Universities, the Rajamangala University of Technology, state and private vocational colleges, as well as colleges of physical education, dramatic arts and fine arts. The majority of courses offered are related to vocational and teacher education. B) Degree Level Programmes leading to a degree require two years of study beyond the diploma level, and four-tosix years of study for those completing upper secondary education or the equivalent.
The first professional qualification is a baccalaureate, normally attained after four years of study. Five years of study are required in the fields of architecture, painting, sculpture, graphic arts, and pharmacy, with six years required for medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science. In some of these fields, additional study is required to allow for an internship or a practicum before professional qualifications are attained. Advanced study of at least one but generally two years, combined with a thesis, leads to the award of a master’s degree. A doctorate, requiring an additional three years of study following the master’s degree, is awarded in several fields, while an advanced diploma or certificate, designed for students already possessing a degree or professional qualification, may be obtained after one or two years of course work. Community colleges were set up in provinces where other opportunities for higher education were not available, to offer education and training necessary for local economic and social development through two-year comprehensive technical and vocational programmes. International Network for the Internationalisation of Education Over the years, the Ministry of Education has benefited greatly from interaction and collaboration with a number of key international and regional organisations in order to enhance educational development and keep pace with the current technological advancements. This has resulted in the launch of a range of projects and programmes in cooperation with international organisations and agencies such as UNESCO, SEAMEO, UNDP, USAID, ASEAN, UNICEF and the World Bank, among others. Thailand has joined hands with the world community under the framework of the United Nations in working towards the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically to provide universal primary education by the target date of 2015. Moreover, as a member of UNESCO, Thailand has committed itself to the World Declaration on “Education for All” which states that everyone should have the chance to acquire the basic education that serves as a foundation for further learning enabling full participation in society. Under the framework of ASEAN, Thailand is committed to promoting educational cooperation and lifelong learning in the region to support the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community by the year 2015. In this regard, English language and languages of the ASEAN countries will be promoted, along with the exchange of cooperation, knowledge and experience between ASEAN, SEAMEO and the ASEAN University Network (AUN). In addition, by working with SEAMEO and its regional centres, Thailand is playing
an active role in promoting quality and equity in education throughout Southeast Asia. In cooperation with ASEAN, Thailand’s Ministry of Education organised the East Asia Youth Leadership Forum in 2009. Members of the young generation in ASEAN countries, as well as Korea, Japan and China, gathered in Thailand to share their experiences, recognising that they will become a key driving force towards the realisation of an East Asia community. In 2010, Thailand hosted a secondary student exchange programme. Aware of the urgent need for many countries to become globally competent, Thailand has focused its educational policy to expand international cooperation to cope with these challenges. One of the priority areas is to improve the quality of education at all levels so that Thai education can compete in the international arena. According to the Office of the Higher Education Commission, public and private universities in Thailand in 2008 offered 884 international programmes using English as the medium of instruction. Moreover, Thailand’s liberalisation of trade in educational services within the framework of the World Trade Organization and through freetrade agreements inevitably results in the increased expansion of education services between Thailand and its partner countries. During the past decades of globalisation, international education has become a growing business in Thailand given the free flow of cross-border education. Thousands of Thai students study abroad, especially at the university level. At the same time, Thailand also welcomes foreign students and offers strong support for foreign universities wishing to establish campuses and branches in Thailand. The broad aim is to create a knowledge-based society and economy where all citizens are able to cope with change, especially the technological advances in a rapidly changing world. The National Economic and Social Development Plan is at the centre of Thailand’s efforts to strengthen Thailand’s economy and to create an enabling environment for sustainable development. Thailand is also home to the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). The AIT has been serving the region through human resources development and institutional capacity building for 51 years, as of 2010. Moreover, the establishment of the Thailand Cyber University in 2005 has served as a knowledge and education centre by using latest technologies to provide further education for all, for both formal and informal learners. An effective educational system should prepare Thai people with the necessary knowledge and skills so that they are able to thrive in the knowledge-based society and economy to pursue promising careers. With this in mind, Thailand has begun the Second Decade of the Education Reform.
Numerous projects have been introduced in order to translate the reform policy into tangible results. “The Fifteen-Year Free Quality Education Programme”, for example, has been launched to help all families, but most importantly lower-income families, and to target students from kindergarten to the uppermost secondary level. Additional budgets were directly allocated to schools to cover all tuition fees as well as expenses for listed textbooks, uniforms and educational material. The government has continuously invested in improving the overall quality of learning among its people so as to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. The role of technologies in increasing learning opportunities for students in the changing world is also recognised. A budget of 1,623,711,400 baht or around 54,123,713 US dollars has been allocated to provide tablet computers to first-graders. The National Education Plan (2002-2016), embraces a vision of allround and balanced human-centred development that will help the country promote lifelong learning aimed at increasing the quality of life.
ecognition of the importance of human resources for the industry sector of the national economy by the government dates back to 1932, when a labour law was first promulgated. Ever since, measures have been taken to support workers to attain stability in life coupled with the legal social security system. Figure 1: Ministry of Labour.
With the impact of the economic crisis of 2008-2009 that caused various labour issues such as lay-offs and unemployment, aggravated by the lack of employment opportunities for newly qualified workers, a labour policy with guidelines for labour management and development was launched. Emphasis centred on solving urgent labour issues by providing assistance to relieve workers’ burdens and also enable enterprises to recover.
Priorities set to relieve workers’ burdens included a reduction in the cost of living; increases in employment choices by conducting training on new occupations; reduction of internal labour mobility by providing urgently required employment; improvements in workers’ skills through training; dissemination of occupational knowledge, and adjustment of labour skill standards in response to the changing needs of technological advancement and labour market requirements.
These measures contributed to the growth of Thailand’s economy by 12%, at the end of the first quarter of 2010, compared with 5.9% in the preceding quarter. THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS MACROECONOMICS -- IT
IS NOT PERTINENT TO THE TOPIC “LABOUR ADMINISTRATION”.
Labour force: As of the year 2010, the population above 15 years of age numbered 53.33 million, of whom 38.13 million constituted the labour force, with 37.25 million or 97.7% employed, 451,000 unemployed, and 420,000 seasonally employed. Figure 2: Employment Estimates, as of April 2010.
Employment: By 2001, of the total active labour force, 33.49% worked in the agricultural sector and 66.51% in the non-agricultural sector. Regarding the latter, 25.55% worked in the fields of wholesale and retail trade, or automobile and motorcycle repair, followed by 23.58% in manufacturing. Table 1 : Population Classified by Labour Status.
Source: National Statistical Office.
Unemployment: The recent unemployment rate nationwide was approximately 1.18%. Informal Workers: Latest statistics in the year 2009 show that 24.32 million people worked in the informal sector, an increase of 0.88% over the year 2008. Most informal workers were in the North-eastern region. Informal workers in the agricultural sector equalled 60.69%, compared with 39.31% in the non-agricultural sector. In the latter sector, the highest proportion are workers in the wholesale and retail trade and automobile repair, amounting to 40.38%, with workers in hotels and restaurants accounting for 19.74%. Occupations that had the highest combined proportion of informal workers were skilled workers in agriculture and fishery, totalling 57.12%. Domestic Employment Services: During the 2nd quarter of 2010, employers/establishments reported 106,027 vacancies, a decline of 26.14% compared to the preceding quarter. Job applicants numbered 152,560, an increase of 2.13% compared to the preceding quarter. The Central Region had the highest number of vacancies, equalling 35.42%, whereas the city of Bangkok had 19% of the total of job vacancies. Total recruitment filled 77.87% of all vacancies. The Southern Region had the highest recruitment rate of 94.86%, followed by the Central Region at 86.71%, the North-eastern Region at 83.78%, and the Northern Region at 77.10%. Regarding vacancies by educational level, the demand for workers with Vocational / High Vocational Diploma was highest at 38.22%, followed by high-school diplomas at 31.63%, and primary education or lower at15.36%. Vacancies were highest in basic occupations numbering 33,176, followed by clerical staff numbering 16,505. The biggest number of vacancies was in the manufacturing industry at a proportion of 46.03%.
Employment in the Private Sector: During the 2nd quarter of the year 2010, 331 business establishments had invited applications for 5,186 positions, a substantial decrease from the 1st quarter of 2010 with 14,222 positions to be filled, according to a survey covering eight newspapers, including Bangkok Post, Post Today, Matichon, Prachachart Thurakit, Than Sethakit, Manager Weekly Magazine and Job Siam. Occupations for which demand was highest included service staff and salespersons in shops and markets amounting to 1,013 positions, or 72.03%. As for workers, those with Vocational/High Vocational Diploma were required for 1,942 positions, or 37.45% of all positions to be filled. Table 2 : Recruitment rate per job applicants and job applicants per vacancies classified by educational level 2nd Quarter 2010
Source: National Statistical Office. Labour Economic Information Centre, Office of the Permanent Secretary Migrant Workers: From statistics as of June 2010, legal migrant workers numbered 169,442, classified by type of work permit granted as follows: 39.66% were temporary work permit holders under section 9 (previously section 7); 32.13% were proven citizenship migrant workers holding a work permit; 13.22% were investment promotion work permit holders, and 6.31 % were permitted to work under specific Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). The smallest number was 14,423 legal migrant workers classified as lifelong work permit holders. Regarding temporary work permit holders and investment promotion work permit holders, the nationality occupying the highest number of positions was Japanese, at 23.56%.
As for non-legal migrant workers, two main groups are permitted to work: (1) members of minority groups at a proportion of 1.74%, and (2) migrant workers of three nationalities, namely Burmese, Laotian and Cambodian, who are granted permission to work temporarily to substitute labour shortages in Thailand, with work permits extended in 2010, at a proportion of 98.25%, as of June 2010. Overseas Thai Workers: As at the 2nd quarter of year 2010, 26,304 workers notified their requirement to work abroad. The majority of 63.12% hailed from the North-eastern Region, with 45.65% having finished highschool. The number of re-entry workers was 49.34%, and 35.40% were recruited through employment agencies. The main overseas work destination region was East Asia, at 63.43%, followed by the Middle East, at 20.55%. Table 3 : Overseas Thai workers classified by mode of recruitment, 1st and 2nd quarters of 2010
Source: Department of Employment Skill Competency Development: By the 2nd quarter of 2010, 3,334 persons had undergone pre-employment training, an increase of 1,333 persons over the preceding quarter. Highest was the proportion of trainees in mechanics at 30.47%, followed by electrics, electronics and computer applications at 26.36%, and business operations and services at 25.44 %.
Regarding upgrading, as of 12 July, 2010 23,824 persons had earned qualifications in various occupations with the highest proportion in business operations and services (60.39%), followed by electrics, electronics and computer applications (10.75%). As for skill standard testing, 4,946 persons qualified, compared with 15,182 persons in the preceding quarter. The large majority (96.95%) passed the National Skill Standard Test, followed by testing for working overseas (2.44%) and Skill Standard Testing designed to meet specific workplace requirements (0.61%). Table 4: Pre-employment/upgrading/skill supplementary trainees classified by region As of the 2nd Quarter of 2009 and the 1st and the 2nd Quarter of 2010
Source: Department of Skill Development
Note: Quarter 2/2009 as of July 16, 2009/Quarter 1 / 2010 as of April 9, 2010.
Quarter 2 / 2010 as of July 12, 2010. Labour Protection: In accordance with the Labour Protection Act 1998, its Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, and the Act 2008, employees/workers are protected from being exploited by employers; are assured of opportunities for a better quality of life; are entitled to earning sufficient income, and to be covered by social welfare, so as to ensure fair treatment in employment upholding a just attitude toward the employer; in short, to avoid being biased on either side. In the event that an establishment fails to comply with labour laws, certain actions are implemented in order to ensure that such establishments do justice to employees, such as obliging the supervising employer to adhere to legally correct practices; issuing an invitation letter to a meeting, issuing orders to take action; imposing a fine, or initiating litigation. The approach to action shall be determined by the severity of the problem. In recent times, approaches taken were mostly to advise an establishment owner to strictly follow the labour law.
Welfare: Promoting legally specified labour welfare, in addition, covered 2,294 workplaces benefiting 219,510 employees, to date, supplemented by operating two Child Development Centres of the Sirindhorn College under Royal Patronage, caring for 1,443 infants. Table 5 : Welfare measures taken in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2010 Promotion Activities Q1/2010 Q2/2010 places people places people 1. Welfare Support 3,709 436,271 2,294 219,510 2. Providing Labour Loan Fund 3,701 1 2,581 2 3. Child Development Centres, 1,115 2 1,443 2 Sirindhorn College under Royal Patronage 4. Enterprises participating in the 308 5,818 681 4,181 campaign for a drug-free workplace Total 4,021 446,905 2,978 227,715 Source: Department of Labour Protection and Welfare. Quarter 1 / 2010 as of April 22, 2010 / Quarter 2 / 2010 as of July 22, 2010. Social Security: According to statistics as of March 2010, a total of 391,450 establishments had registered their participation in the social security system with 8,744,795 insured persons. As of the 2nd quarter of 2010, there were 151 public hospitals, or 62.14% of the total, and nine private hospitals, or 37.86% of the total, fully participating in the social security system, with another 2,313 hospitals affiliated. The financial status of the Social Security Fund, as of May 2010, showed a total amount of 738,112 million baht available to support a total number of 2,005,989 beneficiaries. The fund is earmarked to benefit workers through the provision of financial assistance in cases of need such as sickness, maternity, disability, death, child allowance, old age, and unemployment. Recently, disbursements in cases of sickness including dental care accounted for the highest proportion.
Recognising the importance of labour as one of the key factors for social and economic development, it is deemed mandatory to continue to ensure and secure the wellbeing of workers; develop their potential; promote their employability; widen and strengthen the social safety net, and make provisions for sharing benefits within an inclusive economy. Government policies and strategies conceptualised in the aftermath of recent economic crises will continue to strengthen the labour force in terms of lifelong learning, occupational qualification, employability, and social standing, so that workers’ talents will be fostered and tapped for greater flexibility in adjusting individually to labour demand triggered by technological advancement, and for the sake of overall improvement in productivity. In this manner, the government shall continue to promote and sustain employment as a cornerstone of an ever stronger economic foundation. The Ministry of Labour will continue to develop labour policies to ensure the protection of workers rights and benefits as well as to enhance industrial co-operation and ensure industrial peace, on the whole, as follows: 1. Develop and train workers at all levels through the dissemination of knowledge, training on continually changing required skills, and setting standards in response to the advancement of technologies and corresponding labour market demand. These objectives are encapsulated in the amendment of the law on “Skill development promotion”. 2. Develop a labour data base and information system, in short called Labour Bank by networking in order to access and retrieve up-todate information required for strategic planning through: - The development of one consolidated labour data base and information system, so as to replace many incompatible systems; - The incorporation of data on overseas job seekers for knowledge management, geared to make more effective use of the expertise and experience of overseas workers for the national economy.
3. Emphasise public relations internally as well as externally: internally by establishing and operating an integrated public relations system for rapid connection and consultation to ensure unanimity, accuracy, and systematic dissemination among all government agencies; externally by providing updated, coherent and consistent information to clients. 4. Support and assist workers in both the formal and informal economy, particularly on occupational safety and health and environment at work by - ensuring decent working conditions for workers in both the formal and informal economy; - conceptualising and implementing “proactive industrial relations” with the objectives of solving labour disputes, at the earliest opportunity, and promoting industrial relations in both private-sector and public enterprises; - developing the system of labour standard management in compliance with the Thai Labour Standard (TLS 8001-2546). 5. Integration and streamlining of migrant workers’ employment in response to the demands of the manufacturing sector, without adversely affecting employment opportunities for Thai workers, and without compromising national security. 6. Employment promotion for the elderly and disabled. 7. Reforming and strengthening the social security system.
The Ministry of Labour is well prepared to improve workers’ qualifications so as to supply a semi-skilled and increasingly skilled labour force, thus meeting changing demands by: 1. cooperating with enterprises using high technology to strengthen readiness and upgrade skills and improve qualifications required to meet standard criteria; 2. cooperating with the Ministry of Education in human resource development in fields of acute shortage; to date, such as science and technology, with corresponding skill development to be accelerated in response to the ever-changing labour demand; 3. cooperating with the Board of Investment in supporting the business operators, who import technology to improve productivity, increase production, raise efficiency and strengthen effectiveness, by encouraging technology transfer to Thai workers as the vital mechanism to be used in parallel with research and development (R&D) to increase value-adding to products and, thus, become more competitive in the world market; 4. supporting and promoting the private sector to heighten awareness of the significance of human resources development, and to play an active role, so as to strengthen competitiveness of the particular enterprise and of the country as a whole; and by 5. advocating capacity building throughout the workforce in line with the strategic target adopted by the ASEAN Economic Community for 2015.
Envisaged support of both the labour force and enterprises
Evolution of Thai Health Care and Health Policy 1.
Stages of the evolution since the 13th century AD are distinguished by the practice of indigenous medicine until early in the 19th century, followed by the adoption of Western medicine, and the nationwide development and expansion of the health care infrastructure, to date. The first modern hospital, Siriraj Hospital, was established in 1888 where a medical school of Western medicine was set up in the following year. Health Care Infrastructure Expansion (1889-2010) The Nursing Department was established under the Ministry of Education, and the Midwifery School was established in 1896. During the present reign (1946 onwards), His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) has continually attached high priority to extending and improving medical care to people in need particularly in remote areas. With the active support of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, Their Majesties set up numerous units specialising in health care and medical care, including stationary and mobile units. Over time, all members of the Royal Family have become involved in medical and health care activities. Royal initiatives
also comprise research on preventing rabies, filariasis, AIDS and cancer, as well as educational programmes on healthy nutrition and food preparation. Two examples are the royally initiated “National Programme towards Sustainable Elimination of Iodine Deficiency Disorders”, resulting in several projects especially for the benefit of children and adolescents, and the campaign for the elimination of stimulants and narcotic drug abuse. By 1950, each province in Thailand had a hospital. As of the year 2010, there are over 3,000 public hospitals at provincial, district and tambon (subdistrict) levels. Recently, 2,000 health centres were upgraded to Tambon Health Promotion Hospitals.
2. Health Care Provision prior to the Constitution Promulgated in 1997 and the Universal Health Care Coverage Policy
In 1990, the Social Security Act was enacted, and Social Security Health Insurance started providing medical benefits. Since December, 2005, it has covered all workers as well as the self-employed. Hence, before the implementation of the Universal Coverage of Health Care (UC) Policy, most people were covered by the Health Welfare Scheme.
3. Health care provision in accordance with the Constitution promulgated in 1997
In the Constitution of 1997, the provision of health care is defined to the effect that: “A person shall enjoy an equal right to receive standard public health services, and the indigent shall have the right to receive free medical treatment from public health facilities of the state, as provided by laws. The public health services by the state shall be provided thoroughly and efficiently and, for this purpose, participation by local government organisations and the private sector shall be promoted insofar as it is possible. The state shall prevent and eradicate harmful contagious diseases for the public without charge, as provided by law.” Furthermore, it is warranted that: “The state shall thoroughly provide and promote standard and efficient public health services.” Since 2001, the universal health care policy has been implemented. Objectives of the Universal Health Care Policy The health insurance coverage for the entire population comprises a health service benefit package that includes in-patient/outpatient treatment at registered primary care facilities and referral to secondary and tertiary care facilities (except emergency cases), dental care, health promotion/prevention services, and drug prescriptions.
Health Status of Thailand’s Population Over the past 30 years, Thailand has achieved remarkable progress in basic health care, with significant declines in infant and maternal mortality rates, to the effect that the country is projected to meet specific Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As of 2010, life expectancy at birth for females was 76.3 years and for males 69.5 years. The infant mortality rate declined to 12.8 per 1,000 live births, by 2010 (see Table 1 and Figure 1). The five major causes of death among people of all ages, as of the year 2009, were malignant neoplasm of all forms, accidents including poisoning, diseases of the heart, hypertension and cerebrovascular disease, and pneumonia as well as other lung diseases. Table 1: Characteristics of Thailand’s Population, 1960-2020.
4. Overview of Current Status and Trends
Source: Updated Health Policy in Thailand 2009, Bureau of Policy and Strategy, MOPH.
The societal trends and perspective that are suggested by marriage statistics are further verified by observed trends in fertility and family size. Fertility has dropped to 15.0 births per 1,000 women in 2010. Like fertility, family size has also been decreasing. The proportions have grown of both young men and women, who enter marriage upon attainment of certain educational and professional accomplishments. As a consequence, in recent years family size has been decreasing to an average of 3.5 in 2010. Projections yield the estimate that as much as 15.9% of the population will be above the age of 60 by the year 2020. It shows that Thailand will quickly have an aging population. This highlights the need for getting prepared to care for ever more citizens who will live longer, by making advances in health and medical care. Male Female 1980 2000 2020 Figure 1 Population Pyramids (1980-2020) Current Health Care System The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) is the principal agency responsible for promoting, supporting, controlling, and coordinating all health service activities. In addition, there are several other agencies and private-sector enterprises which operate health facilities including hospitals that provide primary, secondary and tertiary medical services. During the last ten years, private hospitals and clinics have been expanding rapidly in Bangkok and provincial cities.
In 2009, public-sector and private-sector health care facilities were categorised as follows: In Bangkok, there were five medical-school hospitals, 29 general hospitals, 19 specialised hospitals and institutions, as well as 61 health centres and 82 health centre branches. Throughout the country, beyond the city of Bangkok, public health facilities included four regional-level medical-school hospitals, 25 regionallevel hospitals, 40 specialised hospitals, 70 provincial-level general hospitals under the auspices of the MOPH, and 56 hospitals operated by the Ministry of Defence. These medical facilities were underpinned by 737 community hospitals at district level as well as 214 municipal health centres. At the subdistrict (tambon) level, there were 9,765 health centres, of which 2,000 health centres were recently upgraded to Tambon Health Promotion Hospitals, and 66,223 rural and 2,470 urban primary health care centres. The last two types of health facilities were managed by village health volunteers (close to one million village health volunteers in 2010) under the supervision of health workers at sub-district health centres. The private sector has also played a significant role in providing curative care. In 2009, there was one private medical school in Bangkok, 322 private hospitals (96 in Bangkok and 226 in other provinces), 17,651 clinics, 15,404 drugstores (1st and 2nd class) and 2,020 traditional medicine drugstores. In 2009, the overall ratio of hospital beds to population was 1:312 in Bangkok, compared to the ratio of 1:502 in all provinces, and 1:779 for the North-eastern Region. The ratio of physicians to population was 1:2,931 for the whole country, ranging from 1:955 for Bangkok and 1:5,028 for the North-eastern Region.
Health Care Financing
Thailand’s health care system reflects the entrepreneurial, market-driven nature of its economy. It is a cross-over system of public-sector and privatesector interfacing in both health-care financing and provision. The total health expenditure has increased gradually, at a faster rate than the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP). In 2008, the total health expenditure equalled 4% of GDP, of which a higher proportion (75%) was covered by the public sector than by the private sector (25%).
Table 2 Health Financing Indicators in 2008
Finance General Government expenditure on health as % of total expenditure on health General Ministry of Public Health and other Ministries as % of total expenditure on health Universal Health Care Coverage Scheme as % of total expenditure on health Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme as % of total expenditure on health Household health expenditure as % of total expenditure on health Social security expenditure on health as % of total expenditure on health Local government health expenditure Per capita total expenditure on health at average exchange rate (US$) Qty 75 20 24 19 18 7 5 171
Total expenditure on health as % of GDP 4.0
5. Current Government Health-related Policies
Source: National Health Accounts of Thailand 2002-2008.
The Government Health-related Policies from 2001 onward Promotion, Disease Prevention and Control, and Consumer Protection The incumbent government set the national agenda on “Health Promotion, Disease Prevention and Control, and Consumer Protection”. Each individual is encouraged to adopt healthy practices such as exercising at least three times a week, eating nutritious and safe food, and staying away from unsafe sex and drugs. Thailand has employed the principles of good manufacturing practice (GMP) for drug, food and cosmetic products and, recently, for toxic substances in due course to raise the standards to international level. As of December 2009, 94% of drug producing industrial enterprises had obtained the GMP certification. Promotion of Thai Traditional & Herbal Medicine and Alternative Medicine The period 1994 to 2000 was designated as the “Decade of Thai Traditional Medicine Development” focusing on the research and development (R&D) of health-related products and health technologies, resulting in an increased capacity for producing traditional medicines and training in Thai traditional massage.
In 2002, the Department of Thai Traditional Medicine and Alternative Medicine was established to develop the whole system of indigenous medicine, in continuation of the National Institute of Thai Traditional Medicine, founded in 1993. Traditional cures and herbal medications have been integrated into primary health care. Accordingly, all herbal traditional prescriptions have become subject to regulation. Knowledge of the therapeutic potency and usage of herbal medicinal products has become a valuable “heritage of local wisdom”. Use of herbal medicinal products has increased remarkably, along with the global trend of resorting to therapies using natural substances deemed superior to modern medication. Holding a large natural resource of medicinal plants, Thailand is attuned to this global trend. Indigenous knowledge has become increasingly recognised as a valuable inheritance. Research on the potency of medicinal plants has been geared to extracting and purifying their principal substances and active components. New manufacturing technology has been applied to produce herbal remedies of high efficacy and in appropriate dosages. Strengthening the Country’s Health Related Capability for Income Generation and Export In recent years, the “One Tambon One Product (OTOP) Project” also ventured into advising villagers how to produce health-related goods such as preserved food, herbal concoctions, and Thai traditional remedies, as well as training in skills required to practice massage. This is of increasing significance for health resorts and spas providing traditional cures and health care.
6. Universal Health Care Coverage Policy (UC Policy)
The main objectives and characteristics of the Universal Health Care Policy are universal coverage, a single standard, and a sustainable system. To ensure the effectiveness of the system, strong emphasis has been placed on both resource and technology efficiencies, underpinned by an adequate and stable budget allocation to secure the system’s financial affordability. A pertinent law, the National Health Security Act, was enacted in November 2002. Implementation of the Universal Health Care Policy As projected, by December, 2010, a total of 47 million people are covered by this scheme. The remainder comprises eight million people including civil servants and their dependents (spouses, parents, and children), and eight million workers covered under the Civil Servant Medical Benefit Scheme (CSMBS) or the Social Security Health Insurance Scheme (SSS).
As a funding mechanism, a capitation grant was chosen to finance the UC scheme. A capitation grant based on a rate of 1,202 baht per registered capita per year was prepaid to the health care facility to cover the benefit package during the first two years. The budget under the Universal Coverage Policy was allocated to provinces according to the registered population. The payment mechanism was applied to both public-sector and privatesector facilities. Highest priority was given to channelling allocations to the primary care units based on the registered population figure. Secondary and tertiary hospitals were funded from the budget of and through primary care units for inpatient care, commensurate with their services as determined by the number and type of referred cases. The capitation grant rate increased to 2,546.48 baht for the fiscal year 2011 starting from 1 October 2010. Moreover, under the E-Government project, Thailand has already started to use only one ID card called SMART CARD to gain access to any health facilities. Future Challenges for the Thirty-baht Policy Thailand might have made headway towards accomplishing universal coverage of health care during the recent economic slowdown period. Nationwide coverage was achieved within one year, and the policy is heading in a sound direction, given the accumulated experience and knowledge. The challenge remains as to how to keep the system sustainable while meeting people’s expectations of health care services. Thailand’s Universal Health Care Policy is an example of how a middleincome country manages to pursue equity in health-care with remarkable achievements. It is obvious that this policy is welcomed by the public and is fully supported by politicians, thus ensuring a “governmental commitment” in paving the way to increase investment in health-care and treating public health as a core concern of development.
7. From Primary Health Care to “Thailand Healthy Lifestyle Strategic Plan”
Thailand participated in the shift of health promotion paradigms, starting with a conventional paradigm that focused on health promotion services such as maternal and child health care, nutrition, and family planning. It was followed by the paradigm of “Health for All by the Year 2000” and the emerging concept of primary health care. Then, Thailand, as a member of the World Health Organization (WHO), adopted the WHO guidelines in implementing the national health policy. In November 2004, the government launched the “Healthy Thailand” Policy as one component of the National Agenda, with a view to meeting targets defined by MDG indicators. In due course, the WHO chose Thailand to host the 6th Global Conference on Health Promotion in August 2005, which was concluded with the adoption of the “Bangkok Charter on Health Promotion”. “Healthy Thailand” “Healthy Thailand” depicts the vision that encapsulates the strategic goal; gives direction and serves as a guideline in efforts to reduce behavioural health risks and solve major health problems. “Healthy Thailand” directs all health care staff and health-related agencies to reinforce specific efforts toward attaining the goal within the staggered time frame set for each year. Annual targets and indicators were defined to solve particular health problems. For example, in the year 2004 the five target areas were exercise, diet, emotional development, disease reduction, and environmental health. Of particular relevance are environmental health and occupational health. Concerning environmental health, exposure to Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) necessitates medical and health care interventions, in the short run, and disease prevention and control, in the long run. Occupational health is of equally vital importance, given the rapid diversification of the national economy and the challenge of competitiveness in the global market. At present, the Thailand Healthy Lifestyle Strategic Plan is a national agenda which engages an alliance of agencies in charge of health promotion and disease prevention. The programme is focused on five noncommunicable diseases: cancer, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and strokes.
8. International Cooperation on Preventing Pandemics
Two major challenges of transboundary nature shall be addressed. On the global scale, spreading communicable diseases needs to be prevented and controlled. Of current and constant concern are HIV infections as well as AIDS diseases, SARS, re-emerging tuberculosis, avian flu, and Influenza H1N1. The other
challenge is posed by disasters which typically necessitate rapid medical and health-care interventions. To avert pandemic threats population-wide, behavioural changes are required that must start with the youngest members of society to ensure that they develop healthy and safe habits from early childhood onward. Any pandemic is an avoidable crisis, provided there is heightened awareness and rigorous, individual precautions are taken. Globalisation is opportunity for strengthening collaboration in health among national governments. The implications of an emerging international health policy are very complex as global health problems have expanded beyond health issues. Thailand is well-positioned to perform the role of an active partner in regions such as ASEAN, APEC, GMS and BIMSTEC as well as beyond Asia in support of development initiatives and cooperation.
9. Thailand: Centre of Excellent Health of Asia
The Wellness Capital of Asia Thailand’s wealth of health-care expertise and know-how is embodied in her culture, indigenous wisdom, and adherence to the tenets of religious faith. These qualities have attracted visitors from all over the world, who appreciate not only the excellent medical and health care but also enjoy the experience of Thai spas and traditional Thai massage, as well as the salutary effects of Thai herbal products. Many visitors have chosen Thailand as their destination for the combination of the health-care and spa experience with leisure activities such as golfing, diving, and nature trekking. “Thailand: Wellness Capital of Asia” is a component of the national strategy to become the “Medical Hub of Asia”.
Thai Herbal Products Thailand is rich in natural resources, and the use of traditional herbal medicine has been a part of life since ancient times. These resources include medicinal herbs, traditional medicine, native cuisine, salutary beverages, and cosmetics. Treatment of illnesses, caused by any unbalanced lifestyle such as deficient nutrition or strains caused by imbalance of body and mind, using herbal products in one’s diet, both solid and liquid food, are steeped in Thai tradition. Moreover, plants containing medicinal substances have long been used to spice a great variety of dishes. Thailand has begun to export Thai herbal products to the global market. Examples are health and beauty products containing turmeric, a potent antioxidant. Applying modern technologies, substances are extracted from Thai herbs that have successfully been tested for their salutary efficacy and safety, warranted by quality control of products. Mulberry leaves cured to brew a cup or pot of tea are a source of vitamin C. Thai fruit and herbs suitable for skincare and therapeutic benefits are used for cosmetics and products for body-hygiene such as soaps and lotions. Medical Hub of Asia Modern facilities and equipment as well as internationally qualified medical doctors, nurses, and technical staff have enabled Thailand to promote itself as a first-class destination for those who are seeking top quality medical treatment at reasonable cost, comparable to anywhere else in the world.
Excellent medical facilities have enabled Thailand’s hospitals to perform and provide world-standard medical services, and to meet rapidly growing demand in the global market. To date, many Thai hospitals have been recognised and approved as meeting the standards set for Hospital Accreditation of Thailand and international standards such as ISO. Hospitals at all levels nationwide are now in the process of emulating international standards of general and special health services such as dental care, elective surgery (hip or knee replacement), and plastic surgery. In 2002, the province of Phuket was designated not merely as an Asian hub of tourism but explicitly as a health-tourism hub of Asia. Tertiary medical care and specialised services are provided by hospitals in major cities, staffed by specialists capable of providing medical services that meet top international standards. To ensure consumer protection, medical services are regulated by the Ministry of Public Health and the Medical Council of Thailand. Excellent hospitals are located throughout the Kingdom, ready to provide twenty-four-hour emergency services. Fast and reliable ambulance services are available to transport patients to tertiary care centres, as and if necessary. In addition, helicopters and fixed-wing air ambulances are provided for long-distance transportation between provinces, or from and to other countries. Thai physicians are capable of providing excellent services and treatment covering every medical field. The majority have received their medical education in Thailand and undergone further, clinical training at renowned international medical schools and institutes in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, and Japan. In many private-sector hospitals, foreign patients can be assisted by interpreters/coordinators whenever there is the need for any such services. By 2008, the number of foreigners availing of medical services in Thailand had grown to two million patients.
In today’s changing world, Thailand is inevitably linked with the world economy and society. In this vein, its health care system will be further strengthened. Vision Thailand’s health development will contribute to achieve the highest attainable quality of life -- “Healthy Thailand.” Every person in Thai society has equal access to quality health services and lives in a healthy environment. Thailand will be a world class “Medical Hub.” Goals 1. The health care system shall be strengthened so as to ensure equal and immediate access to high-quality health care services for all. 2. Resources for health care, including human, physical, and technological resources, shall be increased, enlarged and expanded to meet changing requirements, not merely by the sheer amount of each resource but also by their distribution across the country’s different regions. 3. Health risk factors being core determinants of mortality and disease burden, corresponding risk reduction interventions shall be incorporated into long-term plans for future health care provision and delivery of medical services. With regard to regional as well as international cooperation, Thailand shall continue to pursue a proactive health policy, in conjunction with its domestic health policy. The plan titled “Modernising Health Care Systems in Thailand” encapsulates the most recent strategy to enhance the development of e-health, excellent medical services, and health research centres.
10. Vision and future challenges
rom the introduction of international sports activities in Thailand during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) sports events have been promoted widely and received great attention from the Thai public. The same can be said for folk games or traditional games. At that time the Royal Gazette on Sports Promotion was issued as a guideline for supporting and promoting sports competitions, and even recruiting foreign experts to help develop sports activities in Thailand, the Ministry of Education was entrusted with handling this matter. Throughout time, the Thai government has attached great importance to the development and promotion of national sports, realising that the country’s progress benefits from the quality of people, which means their allround potential must be developed on a consistent basis. Exercising and playing sports on a regular basis are effective ways to develop citizens by keeping them physically fit, along with a self-disciplined approach and a sense of sportsmanship, dedication, and unity. Subsequently, the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) was established in 1964 as a state enterprise under the Prime Minister’s Office to oversee the performance of national sports. Following administrative reform, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports was established in October 2002 with SAT under its purview. The ministry assigned SAT to be responsible for supporting and promoting sports strategically through sports development for excellence, and sports development for professionalism, with the application of sports science and technology.
SAT formulated a strategic plan in line with the 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2007-2011). This focused on a holistic, “people-centred development”, striving to become a “green and happiness society”, slowing the rise of preventable sicknesses, thus enhancing labour productivity resulting in reductions in medical expenditure. In effect, Thai people were urged to exercise to promote health – both physical and mental. Moreover, SAT’s approach to sports development accords with the Fourth National Sports Development Plan (2007-2011), which envisages being a major organisation in sports development for excellence, and in professional sports, so that Thailand becomes one of the leading sports nations of Asia. It has set four strategies for sports development: Sports development for excellence; Sports development at the professional level; Sports science and technology development; Sports services development. SAT intends to promote national sports and unity for national development to encourage young people to play sports for a healthy lifestyle and promote self-discipline, because playing sports will prevent them from being deluded by unsavoury characters to spend time in unproductive ways. It also aims to achieve sports development for excellence in response to the goal of “Asia Sports Best in Class”. Apart from providing training and developing sports personnel at every level, SAT also promotes sports competitions, which are important for developing the potential of athletes aspiring for excellence. The following projects have been implemented:
Sports Development for Excellence
Construction of the Sports Organisations Administrative Centre
In 2008, the Cabinet allocated a budget allowing SAT to construct a 25storey building for the Sports Organisations Administrative Centre (Sports Training and Competition Centre) at the Hua Mak Sports Complex in Bangkok. The objective was to enhance the efficiency of SAT operations by bringing various related organisations, including the Sports Association of Thailand, to be located in the same compound, which would facilitate travel and contact. The centre comprises the offices of SAT and 60 sports associations and exercise and training rooms for athletes, as well as for seminars, meetings, and multi-purpose use. The project was constructed between December 2008 and 2010.
Construction of the National Sports Training Centre in Muak Lek District, Saraburi Province
Again in 2008, the Cabinet approved SAT’s budget for construction of the National Sports Training Centre in Muak Lek district, Saraburi province. The centre serves as the training venue for athletes in preparation for international
sports events. It consists of a central administrative building, sports medicine centre, multi-purpose gymnasium, multipurpose building, multi-purpose training platform, large food centre, and accommodations for athletes. Accommodation for athletes, the central administrative building and the multi-purpose gym was worked on between 2008 and 2009 with the entire project completed in 2011. Future plans for the National Sports Training Centre in Muak Lek will promote training in two Thai sports: Muay Thai (Thai-style boxing) and takraw with the centre open to the general public including interested foreigners. SAT also intends to develop the area in front of the centre as a health park for local residents and other people living nearby to use for exercising and playing sports.
Support for Preparing and Organising Sports Competitions at the National Level
The Sports Authority has offered funds to various provinces to prepare and organise sports competitions at the national level. Thailand National Games Recognising that organised sports competitions offer a way to select athletes for the national team, SAT holds the Thailand National Games annually, the first was in 1967. Various provinces offer to host the National Games, and competitive sports include compulsory events (athletics and swimming), international sports, and “preservation” sports (Thai sports). National Youth Games Aware of the importance of youth as a valuable human resource and major force for national development, the Cabinet approved the National Youth Games to be held on an annual basis from 1985. Objectives include the countrywide promotion of sports for good health, instilling good sportsmanship and self-discipline in the under 20s to encourage them to shun narcotic drugs. Most importantly, these games complement the plan of the National Games by developing athletes for the Thai national team.
National Disabled Games SAT initiated the National Disabled Games in order to promote health among people with disabilities, improve their quality of life, and achieve excellence in sports. These games also help build and select capable athletes to represent the Thai national team at international sports events for the disabled, such as the ASEAN Para Games, Asian Para Games, and the Paralympic Games. Any province selected to host the National Games is also required to host the National Disabled Games. The classification for disabilities accepted at the games includes brain, vision, hearing, intellectual, physical, and spinal cord disabilities, and poliomyelitis. Thailand Masters Games Although the average age of Thailand’s citizens is on the rise, sports promotion among older persons is still minimal. However, each year SAT organises the Thailand Masters Games to encourage older people to take up sports and exercise to keep fit and prepare for international sports events. There are ten competitive events: athletics, tennis, golf, badminton, basketball, football, social dance, sepak takraw, swimming, and pétanque. More sports may be added in other games at the international level. Building and Developing Sports Heroes Since 2005, SAT has conducted the Sports Hero project; the aim being to find capable athletes and coaches from Bangkok and other regions of the country to enhance their potential through sports science. The project enables selected athletes to develop as members of the national team to participate in international tournaments and professional sports. Some 1,200 winners of gold and silver medals from the Thailand National Games and the National Youth Games have been selected from 15 sports: athletics, golf, cycling, sepak takraw, taekwondo, tennis, table tennis, badminton, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, gymnastics, judo, swimming, and snooker. During their training, they receive a monthly allowance, based on their ability, which is graded A, B, or C. Many participants in the project have been successful in joining international tournaments. Funds have been allocated by SAT to operate various sports associations and networks and to prepare and send athletes to join various competitions at the international level. These include the SEA Games, Asian Games, Olympic Games, Asian Indoor Games, Youth Olympic Games, ASEAN Para Games, Asian Para Games, and Paralympic Games.
Support for Preparing and Sending Athletes to Join International Tournaments
In order to develop professional sports as activities for sports entertainment contributing to national development and value creation, SAT has introduced a number of initiatives: Setting up Professional Sports Systems Six systems to mobilise sports development to help Thai athletes become professional have been set up by SAT. These systems, which include management; organising professional sports competitions; a database for professional sports; public relations and the creations of a fan club; finance and privileges, and welfare for athletes and sports personnel, are meant as guidelines for the success of professional sports to generate a stable income for athletes and sports personnel. Support for the Organisation of Professional Sports Competitions Support has been provided by SAT for sports associations to organise competitions for 12 professional sports: football, tennis, golf, snooker, takraw, badminton, volleyball, bowling, table tennis, loop takraw, motorcycling, and motor car racing. It has also mapped out the National Football Development Strategic Plan, comprising the National Football Strategic Plan, the Professional Football Tournament Strategic Plan, and the Professional Football League Strategic Plan. In addition, SAT has produced a guidebook on the standards and assessment criteria of a professional football league, including how to follow up on the assessment, in line with the set standard. Publicising Professional Sports Competitions A fund has been allocated by SAT to publicise professional sports competitions through various media channels, such as live broadcasts on professional football, professional snooker, and professional loop takraw tournaments. Public relations campaigns covering professional sports have been conducted through T Sports Channel, and a campaign to raise awareness of professional football tournaments has been carried out on a continual basis. Development of Professional Sports Networks Funds have been provided by SAT for the development of professional sports networks to three organisations: the Professional Golf Association of Thailand, the Professional Boxing Association of Thailand, and the International Takraw Academy. It has also organised workshops to map out strategic plans to develop professional takraw, so that professional sports networks would have efficient management systems. Development of Professional Athletes Athletes participating in professional snooker, bowling, golf, and tennis events have been allocated funds by SAT.
Sports Development at the Professional Level
Development of Professional Sports Personnel SAT has organised technical training in sports for coaches and professional sports referees to enhance the potential of professional sports personnel, so that they will be able to perform their duties more effectively. It has also provided training on the formulation of development strategies for professional football, volleyball, takraw, golf, and motorcar racing. In addition, it has sent professional sports personnel to attend international sports executive training courses, organised by the United States Sports Academy (USSA). Professional Sports Management Funds were received by SAT for professional sports management to equip professional sports personnel with more knowledge and understanding about sports management to improve their operations. Study for Professional Sports Development Workshops have been arranged for eight professional sports associations to study guidelines to develop professional sports. The eight associations are related to volleyball, takraw, motorcycling, bowling, badminton, table tennis, golf, and motorcar racing. The workshops will equip sports executives with better knowledge and understanding about the professional sports management system, in terms of sports business, sports organisation management, professional sports competitions, and public relations and the creation of a fan club. Promotion and Preservation of Muay Thai Muay Thai (Thai-style boxing) is an ancient martial art. Aware of the importance of this the Thai government established a policy to promote, preserve, and develop the sport. Following the enactment of the Boxing Act of 1999, the Office of the Boxing Board was established under the supervision of the Sports Authority. Responsibilities include promoting, developing, preserving, and publicising boxing, as well as ensuring that people and organisations involved perform in accordance with the Act. The Office of the Boxing Board has so far provided welfare, protection, and training for Muay Thai coaches, referees, and personnel, and it has also promoted this sport both in Thailand and overseas.
Sports Science and Technology Development
Conscious that sports science and technology development is essential for improving the health and potential of athletes, SAT set up sports science and technology development centres at Hua Mak Sports Complex in Bangkok and other venues in all regions of the country. These centres provide knowledge about sports science, physical fitness tests, fitness promotion, and sports nutrition for athletes. Also, they can be used as training venues for athletes prior to competitions. Sports science and technology development embraces the following:
Science and technology study, research, and analysis have been conducted with sports associations in various tournaments, such as professional takraw, the 12th Asian Women’s Handball Championship, the 1st Asian Martial Arts Games, the Toyota Motor Sport Festival 2009, and the National Games. Sports science services have been offered to athletes and the general public to help them develop physical and mental health systematically and on a fullcycle basis through various sports activities, such as Thailand Health & Wellness 2010 at IMPACT arena, Muang Thong Thani, where a sports science mobile unit, equipped with testing devices, was arranged to offer physical fitness tests and counselling services on effective exercises. Physical fitness testing services have been provided to athletes on the Thai national team participating in various international tournaments, such as the 25th SEA Games in Laos, the 1st Asian Youth Games in Singapore, the 1st Asian Martial Arts Games in Thailand, the 5th ASEAN Para Games in Malaysia, and the 3rd Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam. Other services include physical rehabilitation for national athletes, with doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists posted at sports venues and sports associations to take care of and rehabilitate athletes injured during tournaments and training. Doping controls have been imposed in sports competitions, organised or certified by SAT, at both national and international levels. The objective is to prevent intentional or unintentional doping, in line with the standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Moreover, officials have been sent to attend seminars and training in doping control to help develop their expertise in this field. Research studies were undertaken in 2009 to create a body of knowledge on sports science by collecting data from national and international athletes. These studies produced 15 reports featuring sports physiology, sports biomechanics, sports medicine, sports psychology, and sports science and technology. Results of the studies have been applied by sports associations, presented at local and international meetings, and publicised in sports journals. In addition, a database on sports science has been created through the e-learning system to advance sports development towards achieving excellence.
To achieve the goal of becoming the major sports supporter of Thailand, SAT has established an Express Call Centre on 0-2186-7111 to serve as a coordination and information centre to answer questions about sports. The SAT sports services are categorised into three categories: Venue and Sport Gear Services: SAT provides support in terms of sports venues and gear for local, national, and international competitions,
Sports Services Development
such as the Thailand National Games, the National Youth Games, and the Asian Martial Arts Games. Public and private organisations, as well as the general public, may also rent sports venues and gear from SAT in organising sports competitions, trade fairs, and other activities. Technical Services: In providing technical knowledge covering all kinds of sports in various dimensions, SAT has provided learning media and channels for accessing accurate and up-to-date information. The services may be accessed at its sports library, museum, e-library, sports science database, and registrations of athletes, coaches, and referees. SAT has also produced video tapes providing knowledge about various kinds of sports and has disseminated news and information about sports and related issues on its website <www.sat.or.th>. Information Services: Information services are offered in several forms. There is a software report system detailing results of sport competitions, training for volunteers, and supervision of the report system to ensure quick, updated and reliable reports on the results of sport competitions. In addition, SAT also provides services on sports database, such as statistics on international sports tournaments, sports science, and various activities carried out by the Sports Association of Thailand through the website < www.sat.or.th>. SAT has conducted surveys since 2007 on the satisfaction of service users in order to improve its services. Results of the survey in the 2007 fiscal year showed that 72.3% of the respondents to the survey were satisfied with SAT services. The percentage rose to 79.04% in the 2008 fiscal year and 86.83% in the 2009 fiscal year. These surveys indicate that the satisfaction of service users is on the increase, which has encouraged SAT to strive for further development of its services. Activities for Social Services The Sports Authority upholds the principles of good governance and corporate social responsibility (CSR) in its operations. In line with its policy to promote sustainable social development in tandem with non-profit missions, SAT has introduced special and public service activities corresponding to its operations; particularly sports activities in response to the demands of the people. These activities will help promote good physical and mental health among people in varied and far-reaching ways. Sports behind Bars Participating in sports is considered an important activity contributing to human development in terms of physical fitness, good mental health, and emotional stability. Sports activities also help people to changing situations, develop their intellect, and promote morality and ethics. In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the Department of Corrections, Ministry of Justice, SAT agreed to support sports activities for detainees in Bangkok and other regions of the country. It joined the department in setting policies, work plans, and goals for organising sports events for inmates, in both the short term and long term, to develop sports personnel. Under the terms of the MOU, “Sports behind Bars” was launched in 2004, with the aim of selecting talented inmates to become athletes at
local and national levels. Both entities cooperated to organise Sports behind Bars events to promote unity and raise the awareness of the value of playing sports. Several inmates who joined this programme achieved success in sports events. For instance, Muay Thai boxer Samson Sor Siriporn won the female World Boxing Council (WBC) championship light fly-weight title, while Amnat Ruenroeng became an amateur boxer on the national team. Football Tournament Programme for Harmonisation in the Five Southern Border Provinces To foster harmonisation in the five, southern border provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, Songkhla, and Satun, SAT arranged a football event. The intention was to promote physical and mental health as well as promote social harmony among young people in these border provinces. It also provided an opportunity for participants to play a role in easing tensions caused by unrest in the region. Poor and underprivileged footballers showing exceptional talent were given scholarships to continue studies at university level and participate in football tournaments at the professional level in Bangkok. The tournament spanned a five-year period from 2007 to 2011. Sports Gear Bank Project Aware of the importance of national sports development, SAT has encouraged people to exercise on a regular basis. It purchased standard sports gear for 11 sports: football, volleyball, basketball, takraw, pétanque, tennis, badminton, weightlifting, amateur boxing, taekwondo, and golf, to offer services for athletes, youth, and the general public in sports and exercise activities. The aim is to encourage people in all provinces to take an interest in playing sports and urge athletes to train seriously in order to achieve sports development for excellence and help Thai athletes become professional. Activities to Promote Exercising Activities promoting exercises have been organised for the general public. For example, sports personnel have been assigned to lead aerobic exercises at the plaza in front of the Indoor Stadium, Hua Mak Sports Complex, everyday, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. Five exercise clubs have been set up inside health parks to provide opportunities for people to gather for sports, exercising, and running to improve their health. These include taikek, qigong, dance sport, ram tabong, and yoga dhamma clubs, which will help promote good physical and mental health, bringing about an improved wellbeing of the people. Technical Information Services SAT has provided technical information services, comprising guidebooks, sports rules, and video tapes on various types of sports, so that people will have accurate information about disciplinary rules of the International Sports Federations. It has also issued sports science newsletters, sports research reports, and guidebooks on sports science to provide proper knowledge and updated information about sports science for those interested.
AND HUMAN SECURITY
and Human Security
n line with the principles of the philosophy of the Sufficiency Economy conceptualised by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, it is the objective of the Community Based Welfare Project to improve the quality of life by providing human security. The core of the project is to promote self-reliance and help build a caring society based on religious beliefs, local tradition, and wisdom, by adopting a broad-based participatory approach. Under this project, the Community Welfare Fund was established. It is managed by the communities with partial funding and consultative support from the government and local administrative organizations. As of the year 2010, there were 2,917 local welfare funds comprising almost 900 thousand members.
Committed to working with all sectors to provide a foundation of sustainable development and security, the government’s role has shifted from merely providing social welfare services to integrating the various sectors of civil society to participate in the process. Strategies include: improving social welfare and stability in life; ensuring social protection and solving social problems; empowering local communities and strengthening their participation, and practicing good governance in administration. Progress towards development in support of vulnerable groups Various target groups, and corresponding major areas where progress has been made up to 2010, can be summarised as follows: Children and Youth Great importance is attached to the promotion and protection of children and youth from all forms of abuse, exploitation, violence and gross negligence through legislation. By declaring the 2007 national agenda for children, youth, and the family, emphasis was placed on the participation of children and youth in solving
social problems; the formulation of strategies to promote capabilities; the production of media programmes, and the establishment of child development centres. Children and Youth Councils were established at national, provincial, district and tambon levels to allow their voices to be aired and requirements to be integrated into the Children and Youth Development Plan, from the local administrative organisation level upward. The project to establish Creative Areas for Children and Youth aims to promote their participation and enhance their role in useful social activities; strengthen networking among relevant organisations and agencies, and increase capabilities and protect the rights of children and youth through building immunity and promoting participation by all stakeholders. In 1992 Thailand became a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, whose principles were adopted as guidelines in mapping out the Children and Youth Development Plan. Fully committed to accomplishing the collective vision of “A World Fit for Children”, this will ensure that children will grow up in a safe, promising environment and become productive members in society. Persons with Disabilities Development in support of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) was shifted from a charity-based approach to a rights-based approach with a view to enable them to fully participate in society. Priorities constituting the framework for the protection of persons with disabilities and their promotion include: protection against discrimination; rights advocacy; promotion at full capability; elimination of barriers in society in terms of positive social attitude and access to information as well as public areas, facilities and buildings, and acceptance of PWDs with regard to full and equal participation in the social mainstream. Certain laws and policies conducive to achieving equal opportunities for persons with disabilities were put in place, with some more under review for amendments to eliminate remaining elements of discrimination against PWDs. In this spirit, the 3rd Five-Year National Plan for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (2007-2011) was designed to strengthen positive attitudes of families and society towards PWDs as well as to create a barrier-free environment for PWDs’ full participation.
Recent achievements in support of PWDs are: 1. Broadening of the definition of “Persons with Disabilities” through inclusion of individual impairment and social barriers such as negative attitudes, environments and information perspective; 2. Establishment of the National Commission on the Promotion and Development of Life Quality of Disabled Persons, as well as upgrading the National Office for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities; 3. Provision of a 500 baht monthly allowance for PWDs across the country, with registration opened nationwide from December 2009 to January 2010; 4. Provision of an interest-free loan, with a ceiling of 40,000 baht with a loan term of five years, for more than 50,000 individuals keen to start their own businesses. Moreover, rehabilitation centres were established nationwide to rehabilitate, empower and provide necessary social and medical services for PWDs. Regarding public participation, the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) and Group Home programmes were implemented to promote community participation in providing rehabilitation services to the PWDs, thus enabling them to comprehensively access public services and properly integrate into society. Thailand had actively been involved in the drafting of the Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and was among its first signatories. The Sub-Committee on the Promotion and Support of the CRPD was set up to formulate and evaluate policies and programmes to comply with the CRPD mandate, while awareness of the CRPD was enhanced to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of PWDs. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) guideline, called the Biwako Millennium Framework (BMF) towards an Inclusive, Barrier-free and Rights-based Society for Persons with Disabilities in the Asia and Pacific Region, was taken into consideration for formulating national policies in support of PWDs. Older Persons – Senior Citizens Thailand’s population has continually been aging, given the proportion of persons aged over 60 years accounting for 10.7% of the total population, according to the 2007 survey. This is forecast to increase to more than 20% by the year 2021. To respond to imminent challenges accelerated by this trend, with ever more older persons, also referred to as senior citizens, likely living by themselves, policies were implemented and some more will be initiated.
Measures at policy level The Older Persons Act of 2003 aims to protect, promote and support rights and benefits, including social welfare, medical services, education, occupation or occupational training, social activities, facilitation, assistance and subsistence allowances. The National Older Persons Commission (NOPC) was set up to evaluate the implementation of long-term strategies and guidelines spelled out in the 2nd National Older Persons’ Development Plan (2002-2012) to ensure good quality of life with self-reliance, security and dignity. In addition, it encourages families, communities, as well as relevant public and private organisations to participate and share responsibility in development programmes for the elderly. Measures at community level The community-based Multi-purpose Senior Citizen Centres (MPSC) enhance collaboration between local and central government agencies, improve social services for older persons, promote their participation in social activities, and compile valuable data derived from older persons’ wisdom. The Standards of the Elderly Welfare Promotion and Rights Protection (SEWPRP) give clear direction, offer protection and devise care practices for local agencies and networks to ensure that policies and practices are in line with the main national framework and goals. The SEWPRP are to fulfil four requirements: life security, education and training, economic opportunity and development, and social promotion. Urgent protective measures during global financial and economic crises For the benefit of older persons affected by the global financial and economic downturn, a universal monthly subsistence allowance for those over 60 years of age without any pension plan was implemented in 2009,with around 3.5 million beneficiaries receiving a monthly allowance of 500 baht. Also, the amount of free-interest loans was increased to generate employment and income for older persons. Women’s Development towards Gender Equality Gender equality and empowerment of women are recognised as integral components of the full and effective realisation of human rights principles. The pledge to the global and regional human rights agreements concerning
women’s advancement and gender equality are obvious in the firm commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BFPA); the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); the Vientiane Action Program (VAP), and the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DeVAW). GDI Plus to assess gender equality With support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) the new Gender-related Development Index Plus, known as GDI Plus, was constructed to measure gender equality at regional and provincial levels. GDI Plus serves as a tool to assess any gaps between men and women as well as between regional and provincial levels. It also depicts the status of gender equality in development opportunities. GDI Plus is the first such tool in ASEAN which comprises indicators at national and provincial levels; indicators of achieved equality between men and women pertaining to the committed international obligations and agreements; indicators relevant to women’s development, and indicators required for formulating policies. GDI Plus consists of six components: Health Equality Index, Education Equality Index, Employment Equality Index, Income Equality Index, Participation Equality Index, Leadership Equality Index. Thailand GDI Plus 2007 The GDI Plus assessment of gender equality at provincial and regional levels revealed that the overall level of development between men and women differed moderately. A small inequality was found in health development due to the population mortality rate among those less than five years of age. The morbidity rates between men and women among the handicapped were about the same. In contrast, there was quite a large gap in terms of education, with women’s education attainment at upper high school and vocational school levels being higher than that of their male counterparts. The largest gap between men and women was in public participation; men significantly outnumbered women in terms of representation in the Upper House and the Lower House.
The Report on Gender Development: Similarities and Differences A 2008 report presents gender data gaps in both coverage and relevance, based on its analysis of gender-disaggregated data on the role and development of women and men in seven aspects: health, education, employment, income and poverty, family life and reproductive health, violence and leadership. Select key statistics are: Life expectancy, as of 2005: on average, 75.4 years for women as compared to 68.4 years for men; in 2007, out of seven million elderly persons, or 10.7% of the population of 65.4 million, 55.6% were women and 44 % were men; Employment: men’s labour participation rate was higher in every region. In 2007, men’s rate was 81.7 %, compared with 66.0% of women; Income and poverty: fewer women were poor compared to men; in 2007, poverty incidence was lower among women in most regions, except for Bangkok; Domestic violence continued to rise, as recorded by the One-Stop Crisis Centre (OSCC) at 297 state hospitals, where 19 victims had received services per day, in 2004; this number increased to 52 victims per day in 2007; most cases concerned domestic violence inflicted by husbands, parents, step-parents, or other family members; Leadership by Thai women was still limited to certain roles in the private sector and administration. Although women were represented in private-sector roles and outnumbered men in public administration, only a small proportion managed to reach the executive or top levels. In the private sector, there were only 22% female directors in 218 companies listed at the Stock Exchange of Thailand. Their proportion was much lower in public administration. Overall, women made up less than one-fourth of the number of executives. On the positive side, however, women constituted 55% of the executives in independent organisations, as of 2007. The National Women Development Plan The issue of women’s development had first been integrated into the 3rd National Economic and Social Development Plan (1972-1976). Later, the first long-term Women’s Development Plan (1983-2001) was drawn up. Currently, the Five-year National Women’s Development Plan is being implemented, in the context of the 10th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2007-2011). The main objectives are to equip both women and men with knowledge about human dignity and gender equality; to instil the perception of equal roles of men and women in national development; to ensure social justice equally for men and women, and to ensure that women will have greater opportunity in developing their
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potential and participation in national social, economic, and cultural activities. Five objectives were specified in the current National Women’s Development Plan: - to shape the attitude of gender equality and strengthen the family institution; - to provide greater opportunities for women in making decisions in politics and administration; - to improve the health status and strengthen women’s rights in regard of reproductive health; - to ensure life security and physical safety of women, and - to foster women’s participation in the economy. It is also expected that incidents of violence against women will decline and their physical safety will be ensured. Amendment of laws that are against the principles of gender equality Listed below are matters governed by laws that were amended and are currently enforced: - Equal rights regarding divorce and compensation; - A choice for married women to take their husband’s surname, or to retain their original surname; - A choice for married or divorced women to prefer being addressed as “Miss” or “Mrs”; - A modified definition of rape to cover the rape of people of either gender, all types of sexual perpetration, and criminalisation of marital rape, with more severe penalties to be imposed on offenders who engage in all forms of rape and sexual abuses; - Suspended sentencing for an offender who is pregnant or who is raising a child under the age of three, and confinement of pregnant offenders or offenders with children under the age of three in a suitable correction facility other than a prison, during the period of suspension. Proposed legislations to protect women and ensure gender equality Examples of novel legislation are geared to: - Defining domestic violence; the provision of compensation; the rehabilitation of victims and protection from future domestic violence; - Eliminating any discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Definition of Human Security This is defined as “assurances of rights, security and basic needs so that any persons can live in dignity, and receive equal rights enabling them to develop their human capacities”. The requirements to set human security standards and devise methods of measurements are embodied in ten indicators: access to housing; access to healthcare; access to education; employment and income; personal security; family security; social security; socio-cultural security; access to rights and justice, and political participation.
Development of Human Security Thailand has been a member of the Human Security Network (HSN) since its inception by Norway and Canada, in 1999. At present, there are twelve member countries, including Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Canada, Mali, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Costa Rica and Thailand. The HSN vision is to create a world in which people can live in security and dignity, with emphasis on people-centred development in a democratic society. Later, UNDP conceptualised human security as freedom from fear and want. More than ten years on, mostly Western member countries were more concerned about freedom from fear than freedom from want, as issues such as armed conflict were pushed for discussion at HSN meetings. Thailand has advocated a balanced agenda of both “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want” which, at the 8th HSN Ministerial Meeting chaired by Thailand (2005-2006), led to cooperation on themes such as HIV/AIDS, SARS, anti- personnel landmines, and human trafficking. Besides HSN, Thailand also plays an active role in promoting human security through the Friends of Human Security founded by Japan, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Friends of Helsinki Process. At home, Thailand also cooperates with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the field of human development and human security. Human Trafficking Trafficking of persons is a form of violation of human rights. In particular, women and children are the most vulnerable groups, easily trapped by organised crime syndicates. Recognising the increasing severity of human trafficking and its links to other forms of transnational crimes, several policies and mechanisms were adopted to fight against trafficking of persons. Since August 2004, combating human trafficking was declared a national effort. Major policies include capacity building for officials; an intelligence exchange system among origin, transit and destination countries; improvement and amendment of laws relating to human trafficking; campaigns to increase public awareness of the problem and eliminate the stigmatisation of the trafficked victims; provision of assistance, remedy and rehabilitation, and allocation of initial funds to assist victims of trafficking. In 2005, operation centres on human trafficking were established at the provincial, national and international levels to put in place a coordinating mechanism for anti-trafficking actions. These include the integration of
information, mobilisation of services and support from different ministries; setting-up an information support system, and assistance in decision-making by policymakers on addressing and preventing human trafficking. The Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act (2008) was enacted for the more comprehensive and effective fight against traffickers. Its major components are: heavier penalties on all persons involved in human trafficking; compensation that victims may claim from the offender or for any damages caused by human trafficking; shelter and other necessities including physical, psycho-social, legal, educational and healthcare assistance provided to victims, protective measures for both men and women, boys and girls, regardless of their nationalities. The Anti-Trafficking-in-Persons Committee and the Coordinating and Monitoring of Anti-Trafficking in Persons Performance Committee are in charge of formulating and implementing policies. Repatriation and reintegration measures are coordinated with relevant government agencies, non-government organisations, international organisations and Thai embassies to provide shelter and appropriate physical, psychosocial, legal, educational, and health-care assistance to victims Cooperation against human trafficking through bilateral and multilateral agreements in the Mekong Sub-region, as well as among ASEAN, the Friends of Helsinki Process (FHP), Bali Process, UN agencies working for combating human trafficking and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been strengthened. The National Policy, Strategy, and Measures for the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking (2011-2016) will promote and employ a participatory process from all relevant sectors. All public voices from nationwide seminars were assimilated and recorded to reflect stakeholders’ points of view. The objectives are (1) to state the main principles for prevention, prosecution, protection, policy development and implementation, complete with a database for managing; and (2) to enhance cooperation from all relevant sectors in implementing policies, strategies, and prevention as well as protection measures. Acknowledging that children and youth have been the prime target victims of human trafficking due to poverty, lack of education and consumerism, child prostitution and exploitation of child beggars have become more complex problems. The Royal Thai government proclaimed human trafficking a matter on the national agenda and enforced the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. These efforts aim to protect and rescue victims, and to facilitate their rehabilitation through legal proceedings.
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What has been done?
There has been a major effort to shift from narrow economic growth and national security orientation to a broad range of human development goals by adopting a people-centred approach. In the Tenth National Economic and Social Development Plan (2007-2011), emphasis was put on wellbeing, development and moral values by providing education, universal healthcare,
environment and biodiversity conservation, and protection of vulnerable groups by creating social safety nets. After setting-up the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) in 2002, its First National Strategic Plan of Action on Human Security was drafted in 2008, using a participatory process through nationwide seminars and workshops. It was focused on three major strategic points: strengthening self-reliance; strengthening social services, and local participation in environment protection. Consideration and approval of the draft plan by the cabinet were scheduled late in 2010. In 2010, Thailand’s first Human Development Report was published, the fourth of its kind prepared in partnership by the MSDHS as the government line agency, and the UNDP. Its theme of human security was chosen by respected scholars as well as civil society leaders, covering the entire spectrum of human development, drawing attention to old risks and threats, as well as pinpointing new risks and looming threats. Also, it short-lists actions geared toward more secure and sustainable development. Six dimensions of human security are addressed: economic security; food security; environment security; health security; personal security, and political security. Added are human development and human achievement indexes. The most critical issues highlighted are water management, the future of farmers, climate change, and inequality. A short-list of urgent matters for consideration includes the need for strengthening the security of the informal sector, ensuring adequate support for older persons, and putting the goal of an equitable society on the national agenda.
In January 2010, social welfare was incorporated into the national agenda to turn Thailand into a Welfare Society by 2017, as outlined in the chart below.
Source: The above roadmap is a translated version of the document tabled for the meeting of the National Commission on Social Welfare Promotion, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Meeting No.1/2010, 22 January 2010.
The year 2017 is the final year covered by the Eleventh National Economic and Social Development Plan and also the Second Social Welfare Plan. A welfare society agenda will be integrated into these two plans. A welfare state in this context means that each individual in the country will benefit from social welfare services, pertaining to the remedy, development and promotion of social stability by fulfilling basic needs, so as to ensure good quality of life and self-dependency. It is a system which is extensive, appropriate, fair and in accordance with standards pertaining to education, health, housing, occupation, income, leisure, judicial processes and general social services. These will lead to meeting the need for human dignity as well as entitlement to rights and participation in the provision of social welfare, at every level. By the year 2017, four welfare systems will be developed and put in place for all people in Thailand. The plan includes four pillars as shown in the table hereunder.
The first pillar is the provision of social assistance for the needy, either as individuals or as a group. However, relief will be meted out only in some areas of needs and urgency. The second pillar is the provision of social insurance. This includes private insurance, third-party insurance, community welfare fund, pensions, provident fund, minimum wage, and others. The third pillar is to make social services available for all, in accordance with people’s basic welfare rights. The fourth pillar is the promotion of giving and philanthropy. This includes donations, the role of volunteers, civil society, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, family, religious and local organisations, tax system for social welfare, and fund allocation to support the social welfare system.
JUSTICE FOR THE PEOPLE
AND THE PROTECTION
OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Justice for the People and the Protection of Human Rights
is Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s accession oath “...We shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people”, was the King’s firm commitment, unreservedly relegating His Majesty’s happiness below that of his subjects. In the judicial process, the King remains impartial by adopting a position of non-interference. Nevertheless, His Majesty has graciously advocated righteousness in the application of the law to render justice for the people regardless of age, gender, race, faith and local cultures. This is reflected in the royal speech of His Majesty addressing barristers-at-law on October 28, 1981: “Law is by no means justice in itself, but merely a tool for maintaining and rendering justice. The application of law must be aimed at upholding justice, not the legal provisions. Hence, the upholding of justice is not restricted only to the upholding of law but of moral and ethical principles as well as the truth.” The indisputable fact is that in order to ensure public access to true justice, the development of the judicial process must be extended beyond the scope of legal provisions.
Development of the Judicial System
The modern judiciary and legal systems in Thailand originated in the reign of King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V, 1868-1910), the fifth monarch of the Royal House of Chakri, with the establishment of the Ministry of Justice in 1892. It entailed the centralisation of all courts, previously under the supervision of several ministries, into a single entity. During the same reign, the first Thai Criminal Code was derived from the written form of “The Law of the Three Seals”. The Civil Code and the Commercial Code were also drafted at the same time and finalised in the reign of King Vajiravudh (Rama VI, 1910-1925). Since then, the Ministry of Justice has been responsible for all aspects of judicial administration and legal affairs. Later, justice affairs were divided into two main bodies: the Ministry of Justice took charge of administration, while the Courts of Justice assumed responsibility for judiciary affairs and adjudication. The Revolution of 1932 had an important effect on the Thai legal and judiciary systems since it changed the form of government from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy. The Constitution vested the judiciary power in the Courts. Judges were assured of their independence and remained guided by impartiality in adjudicating cases according to the law and in the name of His Majesty the King who, in all aspects, is above politics. The judges themselves are protected from political interference, and carry out their duties in the name of His Majesty the King. In the year 2000, the judiciary and justice administration entered into a new phase that separated the Ministry of Justice and the Courts of Justice. Since then, they have operated as independent entities in order to guarantee that the Thai judiciary is free from political interference. Courts of Justice are duty-bound to uphold adjudication, while the Ministry of Justice is responsible for and performs the role of protecting rights and liberties as well as developing all aspects of the justice system, except adjudication. The justice system targets the integration of related agencies to reach the same goal: an equitable, peaceful and secure society. Given that this goal cannot be achieved solely on the part of government, justice agencies seek cooperation from all sections of society including the private sector, international organisations, plus cooperation from Thai people in general. Thai judicial procedures place emphasis on protecting the rights and liberties of all segments of society. All people in Thailand, and those entering the country, are assured of equality and security. One current issue proposed for the national agenda is to develop legal and social measures to prevent and suppress crimes such as unlawful drug use, transnational and cyber crimes, sexual exploitation and abuse of children, and to set up a safe and secure society by initiating several projects such as the legal empowerment for people project, and the project to support conciliation in society.
Human Rights are a basic freedom that all people are entitled to regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, language, or status. Human Rights are conceived as universal and egalitarian; all people have equal rights by virtue of being human. These rights may exist as national rights or as legal rights, both nationally and internationally. After establishing the non-binding Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), many global and regional human rights agreements were concluded. Internationally, this can promote respect for human rights in national parties, particularly in the more democratic countries, or countries with a strong civil society devoted to human rights and with transnational links. And in Thailand, improved human rights is typically more likely as the country becomes more democratic; or through increased participation by citizens in non-public sector organisations. This is especially true in nongovernmental organisations which are principal players in an ongoing struggle over the role the international community should play in promoting and protecting human rights. The idea that protecting human rights knows no boundaries, and the international community has an obligation to ensure governments guarantee and protect human rights, has captured the imagination of mankind.
International Human Rights Obligation
Protecting Rights and Liberties in the Judicial Process
Over past years, the Thai government and local officials have worked tirelessly to ensure a rights and liberties protection process is robustly integrated into fusion centre policies and the justice process. The goal is to establish a comprehensive framework for protecting rights and liberties in the judicial process by: - dealing with people’s rights and liberties as recognised by law; - developing administrative systems for the promotion and protection of people’s rights and liberties by raising public awareness of their own rights and liberties; - developing systems and measures for assisting victims of crimes; - providing financial assistance for innocent, injured persons and victims in criminal cases as provided by the governing law; - promoting and developing a mechanism for settling disputes in society;
- protecting witnesses in criminal cases in accordance with the Witness Protection Act; - coordinating with the public and private sectors at both national and international levels for the protection of rights and liberties; and - following-up, and evaluating efforts to protect rights and liberties. In fact, protecting rights and liberties in the justice process derives from the guiding principal in Thailand’s Constitution (2007) that entrusts officials to safeguard rights and liberties to serve justice. Certain legislation is required to strengthen the judicial process including dealing with restorative justice in Thailand’s social and cultural setting based on indigenous laws and innovative conciliation, mediation, and dispute resolution in a modern, dualtract justice process system.
Concerned about the seriousness of transnational crime, Thailand has incorporated as part of its national security policy a framework for relevant agencies to coordinate a systematic and integrated process of prevention, suppression and resolution of problems. These agencies include the National Security Council, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Thai Police, the Office of the Attorney General, the National Intelligence Agency, Office of Narcotics Control Board, Anti-Money Laundering Office, Bank of Thailand and the Thai Customs Department. To combat organised crime, Thailand has employed several measures both preventative and suppressive. In crime prevention, the country has conducted several measures such as developing a people database system and building links for information sharing between organisations. Measures have been implemented to cut off the vicious cycle of organised crimes according to the Anti-Money Laundering Act. Collaboration also takes place on a national and international level in law enforcement and the exchange of information. The final measure is to develop the professional capabilities of all concerned. These measures are intended to prevent and suppress transnational, organised crimes such as human trafficking, drugs trafficking, money laundering, arms trafficking, economic and cyber crimes, and terrorism. In addition, Thailand has remedied six of thirteen protocols/conventions on antiterrorism and established a centre for combating human trafficking at the provincial level and nationally to support mechanisms driving operational aspects and information exchange. The country is also a party to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). In so doing, Thailand has developed and implemented related laws and legal measures to be consistent with this convention.
Suppression of Transnational Organised Crime
With regard to the aspect of suppression, additional (or particular) measures are utilised to suppress these types of crimes (more so than suppressing general crimes) by empowering officials with investigative, and interrogative techniques in the search for evidence to enable officials to uncover and reach the key figures involved in crimes. Examples of such measures include access to information and/or evidence through communications technology and electronic devices to be used only under three conditions: to maintain public order; uphold public morals; and to support national security. Moreover, Thailand developed its national policy to enhance international cooperation with other nations, groups of countries, and international organisations in bilateral and multilateral frameworks as partners such as Interpol, ASEAN countries, the USA, Canada, France, Norway, Ireland and Peru culminating, for example, in the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and Extradition Treaty. What is more, Thailand cooperates internationally to prevent and suppress crimes, transnational crimes, and terrorism.
Forensic Science in Criminal Cases
Today, forensic science plays an important role in the judicial procedure by collecting and examining forensic evidence from “normal cases” and cases related to national security. Forensic evidence supports intelligence efforts in criminal cases. Two agencies in Thailand are responsible for forensic matters: the Office of Forensic Science of the Royal Thai Police, and the Central Institute of Forensic Science at the Ministry of Justice. These agencies assume responsibilities in different areas. Forensic science is also used to reaffirm the efficacy of evidence in a case and in building up trust for the parties involved in a case and other people in general. The development and improvement of Thailand’s forensic work must emphasise certain aspects to interlock with international standards. Firstly, emphasis should be placed on the development of human resources to meet future responsibilities. Secondly, greater prominence should be applied in developing equipment, tools and laboratories for collecting and examining forensic evidence. Lastly, emphasis must be placed on developing a database and managing evidence such as unidentified bodies, a missing persons’ database, and a prison inmates’ DNA database to support investigations into criminal records. In due course, Thailand aims to introduce a bill covering forensic science standards in line with international standards.
Thailand applies the alternative justice and restorative justice approach in parallel with mainstream justice concepts, under the ideal that “the punishment of the offenders for the purpose of changing them to be society’s good persons may not be the best way to resolve social problems. So, settling of social problems and criminal violation can not be concentrated or considered only in a punishment dimension but rather extend to the remedy dimension; to every party related that is affected from that crime such as the victim, the offender, their family and the community at large”. Expanding this idea, the best solution should come through collaboration among related sectors of society. Such resolution, which is better than punishment, will lead to conflict resolution and social restoration. Moreover, it will result in a reduction in cases brought to court, thereby relieving overcrowded prisons and overburdened courts. The best example of this approach, applied to the mainstream justice system, is a community justice model that allows society to settle or resolve conflicts and disputes by a community’s own members. In dispensing justice for juveniles, one concrete output of ADR (adverse drug reaction) measures has been to divert cases from the justice system while enhancing community participation and responsibility in the judicial process by setting up informal meetings called Family and Community Group Conferencing (FCGC) that allows offenders to meet their victims. The offender meets the victim to see how the victim has suffered and learns and understands the effect of his actions thereby encouraging repentance of his own volition. Additionally, this process involves parents and other relatives of the offender and community members to take part in problem-solving. In addition to those sentenced to terms of detention, other groups, such as first-timers and those with petty offences, probationary measures such as serving time in social services are applied instead of detention. For those sentenced to be detained, restorative justice is applied to make them concerned about their responsibilities to society, to resume their normal lives, and reintegrate back in society. At the same time, it encourages society to accept them back. Restorative justice, therefore, is the way to settle conflicts and disputes in society as well as restore social harmony.
Enhancing Criminal Justice Administration
Promoting Transparency and Anti-Corruption Principles
Recognising that corruption is a security problem, Thailand became a party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption and established important agencies to eliminate corruption. The Office of the National AntiCorruption Commission (NACC) is responsible for cases at a national level, while the Office of Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) is
responsible for cases related to corruption and conflicts of interest among government officials. Apart from this, good governance principles such as transparency and accountability, and a checks and balance process, are applied to prevent corruption in government at all levels. Beyond legal measures, Thailand gives priority to social, economic and cultural measures involved in combating corruption. This is done by campaigning to raise the level of recognition and public concern of the value of honesty so everyone believes in the principal that “merit must be seen” to upgrade Thailand’s transparency and confidence level on the world stage. Drug abuse is an important problem that has confronted Thailand for some time, in part because measures used to solve the problem were geared to suppression rather than prevention. Solving this problem, which is a threat to society and security, requires both preventative and suppressive measures administered in parallel with the rule of law. Accordingly Thailand outlined policies including both approaches to contain drug abuse by involving a wide spectrum of the community in building “fences”. The Five-Defensive Fences Strategy consists of: - Border Fence; - Community Fence; - Social Fence; - School Fence. - Family Fence; Each “fence” is a barrier to control drug abusers, traffickers, and groups of people open to drug abuse (potential users) in order to form a frontline to prevent and control drug abuse. These measures are implemented in accordance with the rule of law and recognise the need to protect human rights. Thailand is acknowledged in the Mekong sub-region and world community for applying “best practices” in solving drug-related problems, especially through reducing opium growing areas by advocating sustainable development. This led to a drastic decrease in poppy cultivation areas. The model “Alternative Development”, which has improved the quality of life of those who used to grow opium poppies, is recognised as a model of good practice for other countries to follow including Myanmar, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Peru. In terms of rehabilitating drug abusers, a number of measures have been developed among related agencies in both a voluntary and compulsory treatment system. Drug prevention and suppression policies were highlighted for top-priority action under the concept of “prevention over suppression: drug addicts to be treated and drug traffickers to be punished”.
Five-Defensive “Fences” Strategies to Overcome Drug Abuse
Parallel to this is the decriminalisation of drug addicts previously treated as criminals. Recognising that addicts are not perpetrators of narcotic crimes, but rather victims of drug trafficking, the emphasis shifted to classify them as patients in need of therapy and rehabilitation.
HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn inspects the Prom Panya Library.
“...Taking the wrong path may not be the end of life...” In the past, when a person was sentenced to be punished under the judicial system, it was logical that he or she should bear the consequences of their actions. The Thai justice system today recognises that a person cannot be sentenced to “die” because of their antisocial behavior, and has navigated away from mainstream justice that focused on the punitive solution in favour of retribution for those who intentionally or unintentionally took the wrong path. Several measures have been implemented to correct and adjust the attitude and behaviour of someone who has committed a petty offence using ADR measures such as probation along with a conditional caution, in effect diverting such cases away from the mainstream justice process. The priority for rehabilitation agencies is to “return decent citizens to society”, and “return a decent child to the family”. Detention in restricted areas like prisons and correctional centres need not inhibit inmates from learning. Supporting this view, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn’s intention of promoting literacy has resulted in the Prom Panya Library (library full of wisdom) being established in prisons as learning centre for inmates. Indeed, a large number of detainees have graduated in the recent past because of this educational support. In addition to education, inmates’ training includes religious doctrine, vocational training, recreational activities, music, sports, arts, and plays, to help the rehabilitation process. Such activities help prepare detainees for reintegration into society along with moral support and encouragement from relatives and others in the community.
“Kamlangjai” or “Inspire” is a powerful word that refers to good wishes and generosity human beings should have for one another…” The Inspire Project (Kamlangjai Project), under HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s royal initiation, stemmed from the princess’s intention to develop the legal affairs and justice process. With a particular interest in the lives of female inmates, Her Royal Highness concentrated initially on pregnant inmates and children attached to female detainees. The Inspire Project aims to extend help and give encouragement to those who made mistakes in their lives and were brought to justice, and those groups of people who lack opportunity and need help to return to society as decent citizens. It is important that people should help provide opportunities for others, in a timely fashion, especially to those who need courage to reintegrate into society. Founded in 2006, the project offers a helping hand to those in need of opportunities in Thai society by carrying out activities that support government agencies without overlapping government programmes. This way, the project finds the right target groups and chooses the most beneficial activities to contribute or improve what government agencies are unable to fulfil due to lack of resources. HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha The target groups consist of female detainees, detainees’ babies, juvenile delinquents and other groups of needy persons who are part of the justice process. The end result is a marked improvement in their skill set through education and vocational training to improve their quality of life. Apart from encouraging and providing opportunities for these target groups, the project campaigns to encourage Thai society to offer opportunities to those who took the wrong path but have now learned to be good citizens. Another important activity under the project is the use of play and acting skills to help the process of rehabilitation. This novel idea helps reshape the behaviour of juvenile delinquents in observation and protection centres to help them learn and realise the truth from playacting. This method was first introduced at Ban Kanjanapisek Training School after which the inmates held their first performance at the Pathum Thani International Theatre Festival in February 2009.
Inspire Project (Kamlangjai Project)
In April 2009, at the 17th Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) held in Vienna, Austria, HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha, leading the Thai delegation, tabled the topic Enhancing Lives of Female Inmates (ELFI). ELFI is Thailand’s draft proposal “United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders” (the Bangkok Rules) to draw the world’s attention to the specific needs of women prisoners. Their needs are different from male prisoners enshrined under the 1955 United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which are deemed inadequate for women. Her Royal Highness is determined to support this particular group of people as reflected in the speech the princess gave at the 11th International Corrections and Prisons Association conference at which she received the President’s Award from the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICAP): “I am very certain that with our collective effort at the end of the day we will inspire women prisoners worldwide with the flame of hope for better lives tomorrow”.
Reformation of the law and justice process was introduced under the National Commission for Justice Administration Development by implementing the Master Plan for National Justice Administration. The supporting plans are Justice Personal Development Plan; Master Plan for Legal Research in the Justice System, and the Master Plan for Justice Information Technology as the directional and operational framework for the integration of strategic plans for agencies to move in the same direction. For legal reform and development, Thailand has reviewed and revised laws at all levels to bring them up to date; reducing delays and complications in the practical process, and executing them with appropriate efficiency to make law enforcement consistent with the principle of the rule of law.
The new trend pertaining to Thailand’s judicial process is to place emphasis on public participation and cooperation from all sectors, both in the acceleration of judicial affairs and the management of justice in the community. It is not sufficient for government representatives and officials to solely receive or listen to facts concerning people’s problems. Related agencies must seek collaboration from other sectors in society to participate by forming volunteer networks to work with the government sector in managing justice for the public benefit in order to solve community problems. Regarding the administration of justice, Provincial Justice Officers are established in every province in the country as centres to link with agencies in the Ministry of Justice and other related agencies in the judicial process, along with private and pubic sectors, to achieve sustainable development and a self-reliant social justice system with the idea of extending justice to everyone. Integration and networking among justice-related agencies is the way to allow people to participate and gain access to planning, public hearings and the operational process giving the public opportunities to take part in planning, implementing and assessing government policies in a “by the people, for the people” model. The aim is for all operational projects to be consistent with local culture which should easily gain acceptance from the public as the ultimate goal in the judicial process is society’s last resort.
Public Participation and Distribution of Justice
GOVERNMENT AND POLICY / ADMINSTRATION
PUBLIC SECTOR REFORM
Government and Policy/Administration
Public Sector Reform
n the midst of current global change, economics, society, politics, technology, free trade and environmentalism have flown more freely. Advances in communications within a borderless global network, and the progress of democratisation, have led to a greater respect of human rights. Every nation, including Thailand, has been affected by globalisation. This will offer great opportunities as well as pose real threats to sustainable development. The context of change mentioned has required a serious commitment to develop competitiveness capacity in order to gain more benefits. In responding to change in the global context, the Thai government has realised the importance of public sector reform for competitive capacity of the country toward change; government policy and political stability; festering deficiencies of the governmental system requiring urgent and determined action, and demands by academics and the public for modernisation of the system to bring about greater relevancy to the current situations and increased responsiveness to the needs of the people. Comprehensive reform to overhaul administrative processes and public sector structure has been implemented since 2002. Consequently, various laws and regulations pertaining to public administration and laws required for the transformation of the bureaucratic structure have been amended and put into effect.
The Public Administration Act of 2002 has been enforced and prescribed a vital principle in Section 3/1, stating that public administration must be carried out for the benefit and wellbeing of the people. Additionally, the Royal Decree on Criteria and Procedure for Good Governance was enacted in 2003 to set management guidelines and directions for all government agencies in order to respond to the needs of all citizens. The decree incorporated the following principles: - Responsiveness in public administration with a view to foster happiness and improve living conditions, and to maintain public order and safety as well as maximise national benefit; - Results-based management according to performance plan targets; - Effectiveness and value-for-money administration in terms of meeting targets specified in action plans by due dates, within the work or project budgets, and with cost accounting of public service work; - Elimination of unnecessary steps of work so as to deliver public services expeditiously; - Review of mission to meet changing situations and adjust priorities; - Provision of convenient and favourable services by specifying the due date of each task and make it known to both the public and officials; and - Regular evaluation in terms of mission accomplishment, quality of service, customer satisfaction, and value for money. After efforts to fulfil the intent of Section 3/1 of the Act and the Good Governance principles, the Thai Government proposed the Public Sector Development Strategic Plan which aims to systematically prescribe an implementation framework, objectives, strategies and measurement in order to ensure our reform plan that focused on (1) excellent service quality; (2) rightsizing public sector; (3) high performance, and (4) open bureaucracy. The Thai Bureaucratic System plays an encouraging role by supporting state administration under the democratic system of His Majesty, especially with the implementation of government policies and strategies and good delivery of public service together with law enforcement with the final aims of the citizens’ wellbeing and the nation’s interests. Strategy of Thai Public Sector Development Plan 2008 – 2012 can be divided into four categories: 1. Leveraging service and performance in response to sophisticated, diversified and changing expectation and needs of the citizens; 2. Reengineering work processes to achieve an integrated approach, coordination and networks with public participation; 3. Building a high performance organisation with capable manpower ready to learn to create and to adjust to versatile situations; 4. Creating an effective self-monitoring system to ensure transparency, confidence and conscience of accountability.
Thai public sector development which has continually been implemented resulted in the achievement of the following objectives: increased public satisfaction and trust in the bureaucratic system, public sector roles and responsibilities, rightsizing as reflected in the decrease of the ratio of state fiscal budget to the National Growth and reduction of human resources according to the target goals; capacities and work standards at an international level, and, finally, a democratic governance of the public sector that provides more opportunities for people to participate and to express their opinions and to monitor through various channels. By translating the reform concept based on the principle of the Royal Decree on Good Governance into concrete actions, the Thai government has installed the following reform initiatives:
Results-Based Management (RBM)
The Results-Based Management (RBM) system emphasises change to processes or patterns of the public work. The use of Balanced Scorecard (BSC) will measure the organisation’s performance in four dimensions: Strategic Effectiveness, Quality of Services, Efficiency of Work Process and Organisational Development. It was deemed necessary to transform top-level management posts and the posts of provincial governors into posts of change-management leaders who are capable of generating and managing innovation. The change leaders were challenged to implement a business-like approach to public administration for effective management in integrated strategically-driven systems complete with follow-up evaluation and reward systems. Public agencies are expected to function under the principles of good governance, in particular focusing on accountability for endorsements promotion public participation, disclosing information, as well as monitoring and evaluating performance. The specific focus of different agencies will vary according to the functional nature of each agency.
The government has launched several programs to streamline the work process for faster action and higher customer satisfaction. For example, all government agencies were expected to reduce their work processes and achieved cycle-time reduction by 30-50%. In addition, one-stop services called Service Links were established in all ministries and provinces. The Government Counter Services (GCS) further increases convenience by locating service counters of public agencies that provide basic services (such
as identification cards, household certificates, name change certificates, birth and death certificates, and passports) in populated areas. Thus, all citizens should be able to contact, request information, and apply for permission or approval at a one-stop service centre or through modern e-service facilities. In order to ensure the public service quality for business operations, the government has supported and pushed forward government agencies to shorten service delivery time, streamline processes, reduce burden costs, and enhance the business climate. From such accomplishments, Thailand was ranked 17th of 183 countries in 2012 by The World Bank, in a report ranking countries in terms of the degree of ease of doing business. Thai government agencies have successfully developed services quality systems and have achieved good results in the international arena. For instance, Thailand was a finalist in the UN Public Service Award in 2011. The Revenue Department received a Public Service Quality Award and was declared the winner of the United Nations Public Service Award for advancing government Knowledge Management. Moreover the Royal Irrigation Department was declared the runner-up for fostering participation in policymaking decisions through innovative mechanisms. Thai public sector development has been improved continually in many aspects such as rightsizing, work processes and time reduction in public service and this led to increased public satisfaction. The vast majority of the public perceives, understands and is satisfied with overall public sector development with more trust and is more confident of transparency and public service quality.
Enhancing People Participation
The Thai Bureaucratic System plays an encouraging role by supporting state administration under the democratic system of His Majesty, especially with the implementation of government policies and strategies and good delivery of public service together with law enforcement with the final aims of the citizens’ wellbeing and the nation’s interests. Opening up the bureaucratic process has been laid out to provide opportunities for public participation. Citizen engagement is seen as an appropriate and necessary part of policy implementation in the democratic system. Public administrators are held ethically responsible for encouraging the participation of the citizenry in the process of planning and providing public goods and services. Therefore, people are able to monitor and evaluate public performance in order to increase transparency. Concurrently, the public sector seeks better incorporation of citizens into participatory governance through a mechanism called people’s audit.
Government agencies laid out measures and activities to provide opportunities for public participation to create trust in transparency for service quality in the Thai Public Sector. All government agencies implemented every preventive measure to provide more opportunities for public participation so that the public can express opinions and audit public sector performance and activities in accordance with performance agreements. The primary step was to create understanding among government officials on public participatory governance. Then, raising awareness of participative public administration as organisation culture was encouraged. As such, pilot projects were set at the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Social Development and Social Security and Public Relations Department to create a model for people’s participation in the key policies that will effect total organisations’ administration. At a provincial level, knowledge and understanding of participative management will be extended to government officials within the provinces; also mechanisms for such deeds will be strengthened. Key participative management issues are elected by provinces and academic consultants will advise on implementation plans and the operation of pilot projects as well.
Leveraging of the Public Sector and Local Government Services
A project on the leverage of the Public Sector and Local Government Service through People’s Audit for Thailand (PATH program) has been undertaken. Its key emphasis is based on the awareness that people’s participation in public service will bring about understanding, satisfaction, real needs and partnership-building entailing trust, efficiency and effectiveness in line with the actual needs of people. Networking establishment to up-level public service of the government sector and local government in Thailand was accomplished. Components are from representatives of various organisations: citizens, public sector, NGOs and academic institutes. Their roles encompassed the founding of a task force which would build up a curriculum and manuals about PATH, train
instructors and trainers to further systematically train a person to help uplevel public service standards in the local areas and other areas which were ready. Emphasis is placed on practical and tangible problem-solving policies such as public health, social welfare, and community development. Additionally, the new public administration enhances the decentralisation from central government to provinces. Provincial governments have been authorised to manage their own budgets, human resources and also enforce laws. In this regard, the mechanism to promote good governance and accountability is required to protect against any non-transparency management. Effectively, section 55/1 of the Public Administration Act (No.7) of 2007, (new revised version) outlines the set up of the Good Governance Promotion Committee, which is responsible for submitting and revising policies for promoting Good Governance in government organisations, monitoring implementation aligned to Good Governance principles, consulting with heads of departments in implementing Good Governance, providing recommendations, disseminating information, approving plans/ measurements/ proposals on Good Governance for four years and one-year durations and performing other tasks concerning the promotion of Good Governance in the public sector . In accordance with The Public Administration Act 2007 and The Royal Decree of Provincial Administration and Provincial Cluster Integration, an operational plan will be formulated in order to push forward provincial administration and provincial integration. The Governance Model creates the “Collaborative Governance” between the vertical and horizontal relationship. The objective of this model is to decrease the overlapping of state budgets and utilise scarce resources effectively. Basically, the Governance Model encompasses two vital relationships: A Vertical Relationship is the relationship among central, regional and local governments. Each organisation will be assigned duties recognising their strategies and work on “intergovernmental relations”. Representatives of each organisation shall negotiate and sign contracts with each other in order to create a “Join-Up Government”. A Horizontal Relationship is the relationship among the public sector, private sector, communities, and people. To strengthen this relationship, Regional Governors provide a vital link in order to create the collaboration of all parties. Moreover, the Royal Decree of Provincial Administration and Provincial Cluster Integration have mechanisms to achieve the collaboration of all parties from the beginning of the provincial plan process until it is fully
Concreting Relationship between Central, Regional and Local Governance
implemented. According to an effective provincial plan, the private sector should perform as an investor in aligning with their strategies and supporting their budgets. Simultaneously, communities and people should collaborate in terms of driving their strategies through public hearings.
Changing Role of State
Currently, examined and revised roles and obligations in response to current global changes make the public administration more flexible, adaptive and responsive to the needs of citizens, including: - Positioning must be laid out in an appropriate way; - Decentralisation must be supported to achieve balance; - Reengineering the public sector structure; - Building a proper administrative procedure, according to roles and obligations which are still under implementation; - Organising relationships between the public sector, central, regional and local, private sector, sociological and communities to be appropriate and balanced; - Creating management tools and other mechanisms to encourage other organisations’ participation to carry out their duties in accordance with new roles and obligations such as passing laws, laying out tax measures and funding and enhancing collaborative working.
New Vision of the Thai Public Sector
The Public Sector Development Strategic Plan has to be revised in response to current global changes. Public administration must be more flexible, adaptive and responsive to the needs of the citizens. Strengthening the capability of the public sector is one of the key elements to increase national competitiveness, reduce poverty problems, and to achieve sustainable, social and economic development. The challenges extend beyond improving performance, but also to maintaining and restoring public confidence and trustworthiness across the whole public sector. To ensure transparency and accountability, create opportunities for all sectors to participate in public policy processes as well as to improve abilities and effectiveness of the public management, the Thai public sector will emphasise the following principles: - Focusing on a “citizen-centred approach”, improving public services and delivering high value outcomes to the citizens; - Revising the roles of the public sector to those of a supporter and facilitator, cutting unnecessary functions, and streamlining work processes with better utilisation of public resources; - Maintaining proper relationships with political administrators, providing neutral and impartial advice based on professional standards; - Building networks and cooperating with other sectors in society as well as integrating or linking government activities in all levels; - Enhancing managerial capabilities and abilities to execute major programs, becoming more creative to cope with new challenges and
responding more quickly to unexpected changes; - Putting good internal control systems in place, complying with legal requirements and keeping bureaucratic discretions within boundaries, as well as becoming more proactive in social responsibilities and environmental concerns; - Striving for performance excellence, ensuring high quality standards, and applying advanced technology to deliver a world-class public service; and - Seeking new, talented, knowledgeable, and competent staff, promoting ethical behaviour and fighting against corruption as well as encouraging a paradigm shift in the attitudes of existing public servants. The Thai public sector system has moved towards Good Governance as prescribed in Article 3/1 of The Public Administration Act (No.5 ) B.E. 2545 (2002) followed by the Royal Decree of Criteria and Procedure of Good Governance B.E. 2546 (2003). Such progress was enthusiastically supported by the government. The impact is that all public agencies have become strategically-focused organisations. More encouragement has also been made towards integrating innovation, information and communication technology to ensure accessibility, speedy and accurate response to service needs and to achieve international standards. Decentralisation and participatory governance allowing the formation of more effective regional and local governments with greater flexibility and more timely responses when addressing citizens’ needs at the local level, as well as the role of state, will also be revised so the Thai Public Sector will be adaptive to approaching changes, sustainability and the ultimate goal of trust.
National Defence Policy
hailand pursues a national defence policy that emphasises preventative measures and cooperation with other state authorities, including friendly nations. The policy comprises six key elements: 1) To maintain solidarity and support for national interests amongst all Thais; 2) To enhance defence capacity by integrating all forces and resources to develop effective monitoring and early warning capacities; 3) To develop science and technology to enhance national capacities to confront threats and protect national interests from the negative effects of information technology; 4) To create trust and understanding with neighbouring countries; 5) To cooperate with major powers and countries in the Asia–Pacific region for stability in the region; and 6) To develop cooperation networks of intelligence to counter terrorism and other kinds of transnational crime.
Defence Strategic Concepts
In order to cope with the current strategic environment, and be prepared for future threats and challenges, the Armed Forces must meet its national defence objectives by committing to three strategic defence concepts: Security Cooperation, United Defence, and Active Defence. Moreover, the Armed Forces must fully support and provide their resources to solve urgent national security issues in every instance and fulfil their obligations as a key national institution and important national power.
Roles of the Armed Forces
The roles of the Royal Thai Armed Forces have been defined to focus on tasks other than preparations for defending the country in cases of armed conflict. The adjusted roles include missions in support of government policies such as assistance in implementation of the royally initiated projects, elimination of drug trafficking, conservation of the environment and natural resources, and other civic action programmes, all of which contribute towards enhancing human security in the region.
Within the scope of responsibilities and authorities of the Armed Forces stated in the Kingdom’s Constitution, the Ministry of Defence Administration Act, the Internal Security Act and the State of Emergency Decree, as well as other relevant policies at every level, the Royal Thai Armed Forces’ tasks or roles can be classified into two groups: military operations and military operations other than war. Military operations encompass protecting the country from both internal and external threats and maintaining the international security and order, while military operations, other than warfare, include developing the country, safeguarding the Monarch, protecting and maintaining national interests, and other security-related operations. The latter also includes participation in the government’s development activities.
Domestic Roles of the Armed Forces
Protection of the Country from External Threats In response to the three defence strategic concepts mentioned above, the Royal Thai Armed Forces formulated the National Defence Plan to ensure that the Army, Navy and Air Force are capable of performing their functions correctly, according to the written plan and consistent with current situations by deploying forces since the time of normal circumstances, and having the Royal Thai Armed Forces’ Military Commanders Council and those of other branches to closely monitor situations in order to immediately respond to any emergency incident of sovereignty violation.
Maintaining Internal Security
The Internal Security Act B.E. 2551 (2008) states that the Armed Forces shall have roles and responsibilities to safeguard the internal security since the time of normal circumstances. Accordingly, the Armed Forces delegate this authority to the Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) directed by the political sector and having the Army as its main operative unit. The government, with the full support of the Armed Forces, has applied
His Majesty the King’s concept of “Understanding, Reaching and Development” as well as peaceful resolution as a key strategy and main policy guideline in dealing with the southern border province situation. At the same time more attention has been placed on local development, people’s way of life, beliefs and customs, public participation at all levels, and transparency of law enforcement. The Armed Forces help uphold public safety and control unrest by supporting all activities of the ISOC. In addition, the Armed Forces also play a big role in the promotion of local development in various fields to enhance the strength of local communities, for example regarding education, economic conditions, social development, sports and so forth.
Maintaining Internal Peace and Order
The State of Emergency Decree B.E.2548 (2005) states that the Armed Forces has a role and responsibilities in maintaining internal security both in normal and emergency situations. In normal situations, the Armed Force shall assist and support government officials and police which are the main forces in the initial operation of deterring and suppressing unrest. Once a situation has severely escalated and a state of emergency declared, the Armed Forces shall use military operations as authorised by the Cabinet, to return the situation back to normal as soon as possible, before returning operations back to government officials.
Military Operations Other Than Warfare
Participation in the Government’s Development Activities The roles of the Royal Thai Armed Forces in the development of the country include the process of promoting development in politics, economy, socio-psychology, science and technology, energy and the environment. These can be described as: 1. Helping and supporting government activities in developing national politics by enhancing and providing education to the people to understand their rights and duties as citizens in a democracy under a Constitutional Monarchy. This also includes encouraging expressions of opinion and taking part in political activities; 2. Using their potential to develop economic strength in order to expedite national progress by supporting royally initiated projects under His Majesty the King’s philosophy of “Sufficiency Economy”; 3. Taking part in activities to prevent, relieve and resolve important
social issues of the nation that need to be addressed, such as illegal drug trafficking, national epidemics, and national reconciliation; 4. Joining hands with other government agencies, the private sector and allied countries in research and development to promote science and technology capabilities for national development. For example, the Armed Forces have participated in the Royal Rain Making Project and the use of alternative energy such as biodiesel for reducing energy dependence from other sources; 5. Playing an important role in addressing environmental crises arising from the careless use of national resources. The Armed Forces cooperate with other government and private agencies in campaigning for the protection and rehabilitation of the natural environment, such as the Reforestation Project in Doi Mae-salong, Forest Rehabilitation Project of Nam-Nhao Head Water, Sea Turtles Conservation Project, the Mangrove Reforestation Project, and so forth. Public Disaster Relief Public Disaster Centres have been established in the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Thai Armed Forces Command, and every single service in order to assist people affected by natural and manmade catastrophes. Related assistance includes drought relief by cloud seeding operations, renovating ponds, constructing village waterworks and underground water wells, relief from wintery difficulties, and flooding. Counterterrorism Operations are conducted by the International Counter-Terrorist Operation Centre (ICTOC) which works as a tool for international terrorism resolution. There are two levels of responsibility: at the policy level (Policy and Direction Committee for International Terrorism Resolution and Sub-Directing Committee for International Terrorism Resolution) and at the operational level (ICTOC is assigned to planning, directing, cooperating with and supervising the activities of special operations teams and other concerned public agencies). Prevention and Suppression of Illegal Drugs The Armed Forces established the Administration Centre for Defeating Illegal Drugs to conduct operations to defeat drug trafficking and illegal drug use. The tasks of the centre are campaigning, prevention, suppression, and the rehabilitation of drug addicts.
Land Mine Clearance for Humanitarian Operations Under the Ottawa Treaty on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and their Destruction, Thailand established the Thailand Mine Action Center (TMAC) which functions as the operations centre for all activities involving land mine clearance and humanitarian work. The Royal Thai Armed Forces are the key organisations in the structure of TMAC. Prevention and Obstruction of Illegal Work Force Immigration The government has set up an Administration Committee for Illegal Work Force Immigration in which the Prime Minister, or a person assigned by the PM, is the chairman responsible for resolving problems. The Royal Thai Army and the Royal Thai Navy have been given the mission of preventing Illegal work force immigration since 2001. Regional and Global Roles of the Armed Forces Thailand has undertaken many activities at national, regional and global levels in order to contribute to peace, security and stability in the Asia–Pacific region. These regional efforts are perceived as supplementing national and bilateral efforts to promote peace, security and stability, complementing multilateral efforts under the United Nations or other entities.
Contributions to Peace, Security and Stability in the Region
Implicitly, the ASEAN Charter identifies as one of the organisation’s purposes “to respond effectively, in accordance with the principle of comprehensive security, to all forms of threats, transnational crimes and transboundary challenges”. Within the region, Thailand’s approach has been to strengthen the code of conduct that promotes the peaceful settlement of disputes and to reinforce ASEAN-led and other regional arrangements and processes that promote enhanced cooperation on issues of shared interests and common concerns and address various common challenges to regional peace, security and stability. In view of the ASEAN Political Security Community Council identifying regional cooperation in peacekeeping as a priority area and the importance of this issue as identified in the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Three-Year Work Programme, networking is the first step to establish
regional arrangements for maintaining peace and stability as called for in the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) Blueprint. In the wake of the 3rd ADMM in February 2009, held in Pattaya, Thailand, the Royal Thai Armed Forces together with other ASEAN defence establishments have recognised the useful and proactive roles that they could play in addressing both national and regional non-traditional security challenges as part of an integrated approach and through collective efforts so that their undertakings are result-oriented. Convening the event also gave Thailand the opportunity to work with fellow ASEAN member states to enhance cooperation on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) by exploring and identifying possible ways and means for the use of ASEAN military assets and capacities to conduct HADR operations. Thailand also realised the engagement of various sectors of society including civil society organisations was key to building an effective front to counter non-traditional security threats. In this connection, an ADMM workshop was organised in Bangkok in June 2009 to open a dialogue with CSOs in the region on how they can cooperate with defence establishments to address non-traditional security threats.
Cooperation with Neighbouring Countries
The Armed Forces play a key role on joint committees between neighbouring countries and Thailand, both at the policymaking and operational levels. These committees typically are comprised of representatives from the Armed Forces as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Interior and Office of National Security Council. They work to carry out national security policy on Myanmar, the Lao PDR, Cambodia and Malaysia for the enhancement of security along the border areas. Regarding the promotion of regional maritime security, Thailand’s defence doctrine has always given top priority to security in the Gulf of Thailand due to its fundamental strategic value, rich marine resources, and overlapping claims. Thailand joined in the Malacca Straits Coordinated Patrols and the Eyes in the Sky programme in September 2008. The combined operation by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand provides full surveillance and protection of territorial waters as well as ensuring the safety of nearby international sea lanes. Maritime security cooperation in the Straits heralds a particular regional security mindset in Thailand’s defence strategic thinking. It has now seriously incorporated maritime transnational threats that go beyond piracy or refugees to include non-traditional security such as maritime terrorism, protecting energy routes, transnational criminal trafficking operations as well as maritime conservation.
Thailand seeks to promote security cooperation with all countries at bilateral and multilateral levels on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefits in order to create amity, maintain neutrality, consolidate strength and prevent conflict. Promoting further trust and confidence as well as enhancing capabilities for joint operations, including responses to disasters and providing humanitarian assistance, were some of the main goals of the Cobra Gold multinational defence exercise in Thailand. To ensure transparency, there were numerous observers from countries in the Asia–Pacific region.
Contributions to Peace, Security and Stability Worldwide
Another area where the Royal Thai Armed Forces aim to enhance capabilities, based on their past experience, is in peacekeeping operations. This is commensurate with Thailand’s policy to “promote Thailand’s role in international peacekeeping under the framework of the United Nations”, as emphasised in the Royal Thai Government’s Policy Statement to the National Assembly in December 2008. Thailand’s past experience in UN peacekeeping and observer missions worldwide include, among others: The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC); The United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET); The United Nations Operations in Burundi (ONUB); The Aceh Monitoring Mission. With the establishment of a national peacekeeping centre, Thailand hopes it will help contribute to the development of regional capacities for peace-building and, in this connection, see the development of enhanced links and networks among peacekeeping centres in the region in areas such as joint planning, training and sharing experiences.
The Armed Forces have attached high importance to transparency and confidence at the regional and global levels. This can be described as follows: 1) Publishing “The Defence of Thailand” White Paper; 2) Participating in international meetings in bilateral and multilateral arenas; 3) Developing networks of international cooperation for preventing and
Cooperation with Allies
countering terrorism and transnational crimes, especially in the Southeast Asian region; 4) Improving the level of cooperation on information exchange; 5) Establishing channels of communication; 6) Exchange visits of Armed Forces leaders and other personnel at various levels; and 7) Developing respective laws.
The Armed Forces continue to have a close relationship with many countries, comply with international commitments, and support many United Nations operations. They carry on relations with the major powers through a selection of opportunities, places and issues in appropriate roles and approaches based on the national interest. In the modern era, the world has become increasingly integrated, particularly in economic, political and military affairs, and states have found it necessary to work together to manage transnational threats and security challenges. The Royal Thai Armed Forces are Thailand’s primary institutions for managing and carrying out the roles and responsibilities necessary for ensuring the Kingdom’s national interest. Besides the main mission to protect the country and maintain national sovereignty, the Royal Thai Armed Forces continue to play a crucial role in time of peace and joins hands with other organisations to help develop the country. Thailand will also rely on cooperative endeavours at regional and multilateral levels, with countries inside and outside the region as well as with relevant international and regional organisations. Thailand will also continue to contribute to the emerging regional security architecture, based on cooperation and joint action to face common threats and challenges and emergency situations that arise in the region, and in respect for diversity. Such regional processes, however, should also be based on mutually beneficial partnerships with countries and organisations outside Southeast Asia. What is important is that the evolving regional architecture is inclusive, responsive, builds on shared interests, is not directed against any country or group of countries and respects the diversity of the Asia–Pacific region.
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